Economists optimistic but guarded about Charlotte's economy

by: Jim Bradley Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - "We're optimistic about the economy here in Charlotte and the Carolinas," said Duke Energy Executive Vice President Lloyd Yates.

Top economists from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Duke Energy and Belk got together Monday to try and predict what's ahead for the Charlotte economy.

Nearly every executive at the Charlotte of Commerce's economic outlook conference had a caveat.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said business is better; but has yet to really take off.

"There's just a lot of continued uncertainty out there, and uncertainty offsets optimism, and that's what we are dealing with in the economy," Moynihan.

He said there are bright spots: Consumer spending is improving and housing is beginning to come around.

But Christopher Kearney, whose company SPX deals with everything from food to power to industry, said the best he can offer is a prediction for what he calls "tepid growth" in 2014.

"We feel good about where things are trending as we move into 2014, but there's a general underlying anxiety about waiting for that other shoe to drop," Kearney said.

Panelists said that other shoe has a lot to do with government, from concerns about ongoing gridlock in Washington to the continuing dispute over control of Charlotte's airport.

"I just hope the recent situation with the airport doesn't typify the way local government, the state and county all move forward," said Senior Wells Fargo Vice President David Carroll.

Perhaps the best analogy of the day came from Moynihan who compared the state of the local economy to a NASCAR race that's running, but running under a caution flag.

In south Carolina, two University of South Carolina economists predict jobs and income will increase across the state next year.

They said the state's economy is growing faster than it did before the Great Recession.

But they said jobs and income will only increase if there are no major changes in the federal reserve's bond-buying program.

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