WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- Economists in Washington and elsewhere are warning the economic recovery may be headed for a stall or a downturn, mimicking trends of the past two years.
International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde said this week there is a "light recovery blowing in a spring wind," The New York Times reported Friday.
But Lagarde also said there were "dark clouds on the horizon."
"One has the feeling that any moment, things could well get very bad again," said another IMF official, Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard.
At the Brookings Institute in Washington, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also warned the recovery was fragile.
"It's very important to get that balance right," Geithner said, referring to monetary policy in Europe, where, he said, government spending cuts could undermine "the prospects for some stability in growth."
Economic data is also coming in with a sense of familiarity. Strong job gains in the first quarter of the year have faded and first-time claims for unemployment benefits are on the rise, meaning layoffs are climbing again.
The U.S. economy added 120,000 jobs in March, the lowest monthly total since November.
Surveys of manufacturing businesses done in the first half of April in New York and Philadelphia by the Federal Reserve show growth beginning to put on the brakes.
In addition, oil prices are taking their toll on the recovery with the U.S. consumers facing a national average price of gasoline at the pump that reached just shy of $4 per gallon before beginning to fade.
In 2011, gas prices also peaked just under $4 per gallon. Meanwhile, consumers in 2011 spent a record $448 billion on gasoline, $100 billion more than the previous year, because of the high average price of oil.
In spite the IMF raising its global economic forecast recently, "an uneasy calm remains," Blanchard said.
The U.S. economy is expected to grow 2.5 percent in 2012, which economists say is too slow to bring down the unemployment rate. In an election year, that could put President Barack Obama in a defensive position, playing into the hands of any challenger for the Oval Office.
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