06.19.2012
By Terry Flanagan

U.S. Economy Ready To Move Up A Gear, Says ING Executive

A global asset manager is predicting a rebound in the U.S. markets, despite signs of macroeconomic difficulties ahead.

“The U.S. is in an enviable position compared to Europe and the rest of the developed world,” said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer at ING Investment Management. “There will be growth in the second half of the year, but it will be tepid compared to other recoveries.”

However, while the projection from the asset manager takes into account a mild recession in the eurozone, it is also contingent on Greece not exiting the European Union.

“We believe the U.S. economy has finally moved into a phase of self-sustaining growth,” Zemsky added.

ING Investment Management manages approximately $170 billion for both institutions and individual investors. Its investment strategy is diversified and includes equities, fixed income and alternatives.

U.S. economic growth is expected to continue at a moderate pace in the final six months of the year, though risks such as the European debt crisis and potential U.S. fiscal policy change weigh heavily on the overall global outlook.

ING also forecasts a return of consumer spending, which will help bolster the economy in the wake of reduced government spending, and continuing strong growth from China and Asia as a whole. Chinese policymakers have recently acknowledged that their economic numbers have been very disappointing, and thus it has begun to implement a relaxation of its credit policies. The nation’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, cut its key interest rates for the first time in four years, the latest in a series of measures taken by policymakers to once again spur on growth.

ING sees similar economic measures from other the other emerging markets as well, including in the Europe, Middle East and Africa nations and in Latin America.

A return to strong growth in the U.S. markets will depend largely on some certainty returning to the economy, though.

“There’s a lot of fear in the stock markets right now,” said Michael Pytosh, head of equities at ING Investment Management. “People want certainty. Many are fearful and budgets are not being spent.”

Uncertainty in the political realm as well as with regulation and fiscal policy have left big businesses reluctant to spend. Earnings and financial statements are generally robust, but that has not been reflected in corporate spending and in employment numbers. Consumers are still the key factor in the overall outlook, but decreased spending could be on the horizon as labor market conditions, income growth and savings rates teeter on the brink.

But like all past periods of financial duress, there is always a return to the good times.

“This uncertainty will eventually come to an end,” said Pytosh. “The issues will be resolved. There are a lot of great things going on now in the technology and industrial spaces. Balance sheets are phenomenal and there is a lot of innovation. After the election, things will get done.”

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