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2024 Financial Outlook: Economic, Personal Finance & Corporate Trends

Financial Outlook in the US 2024

As we navigate through 2024, various financial trends and predictions are shaping the landscape for businesses, individuals, and policymakers. From economic outlooks to personal finance updates, corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A) trends, and green economy advancements, there are several crucial factors to consider.

Economic Outlook for 2024

According to J.P. Morgan, the U.S. economy is projected to experience a soft landing in 2024. After a better-than-expected real GDP growth of 2.8% in 2023, the growth is expected to slow to 0.7% in 2024.

This deceleration is attributed to the broader effects of monetary policy and the fading post-pandemic tailwinds. Key factors influencing this trend include muted consumer spending, reduced fiscal spending, and moderate improvements in business investment and housing activity.

The Federal Reserve’s hiking cycle is presumed to be over, with the federal funds rate expected to hold at 5.25%-5.5% until mid-2024. If inflation continues its moderating trajectory, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) might begin cutting rates in June 2024, aiming for a target range of 4.00%-4.25% by the year’s end​​.

Personal Finance Updates

Experian highlights several critical updates in the realm of personal finance. The Biden administration has proposed new student loan forgiveness plans, potentially benefiting millions of borrowers.

The public has until May 17 to comment on the proposal, which includes forgiveness for certain income-driven repayment plan borrowers and those with long-term repayment histories​​.

Another pressing issue is the nearly 1 million unclaimed tax refunds from 2020, totaling over $1 billion. Taxpayers have until May 17, 2024, to claim these refunds before they become the property of the U.S. Treasury. This highlights the importance of filing tax returns promptly to avoid missing out on potential refunds​​.

Inflation remains a stubborn challenge, impacting the timing of interest rate cuts. While the FOMC had anticipated rate cuts in 2024, persistent inflation rates might delay these plans. This has significant implications for consumer loans, mortgage rates, and household budgets​.

Corporate Finance and M&A Trends

Deloitte’s outlook on corporate finance and M&A activity is cautiously optimistic. The M&A market faced significant challenges in 2023 due to high interest rates, geopolitical tensions, and economic uncertainty.

However, 2024 shows signs of resurgence, with potential positive capital market trends and increased private equity activity. The Federal Reserve’s decision to hold interest rates steady since July 2023, coupled with potential rate cuts in 2024, could foster a more favorable lending environment​.

Private equity groups are expected to deploy a record-breaking amount of dry powder, and the public markets are anticipated to improve. The focus on artificial intelligence (AI) during due diligence efforts is expected to intensify, reflecting the growing importance of AI in corporate strategies​.

Green Economy and Sustainability

Sustainability remains a priority for business leaders and policymakers in 2024, as highlighted by J.P. Morgan Chase. Efforts to advance decarbonization are still in the early stages, presenting significant opportunities for innovation.

Key trends include the commercialization of climate technologies such as carbon capture, hydrogen, and sustainable aviation fuel. Additionally, green infrastructure projects like charging networks and hydrogen hubs are expected to enable the widespread adoption of novel technologies​.

Project finance and tax equity markets play an important role in the energy transition, with demand for renewable energy tax credits expected to outstrip supply. This creates opportunities for corporations to purchase tax credits, and project finance banks may provide bridge loans to ease funding gaps in project development. Renewable energy growth is likely to concentrate on utility-scale solar and battery-storage projects.

The convergence of decarbonization and deglobalization trends is anticipated to accelerate the formation of joint ventures and mega projects in the U.S., particularly in renewable energy generation and energy transition manufacturing.

The evolving macroeconomic environment, coupled with increasing private capital and government support, presents numerous opportunities in the green economy sector​.

Key Takeaways for 2024

Economic Growth

The U.S. economy is forecasted to experience slower growth in 2024, with real GDP growth projected at 0.7%, a significant decrease from the 2.8% seen in 2023. This deceleration is primarily attributed to the broader impacts of monetary policy and the diminishing effects of post-pandemic recovery.

Consumer spending, a major component of GDP, is expected to rise at a more subdued pace due to factors such as reduced excess savings, plateauing wage gains, and less pent-up demand. Additionally, the resumption of student loan payments and an increase in subprime auto and credit card delinquencies may further strain consumer finances​​.

In 2023, the fiscal deficit doubled to $1.84 trillion, significantly boosting the economy. However, in 2024, this trend is expected to reverse, with fiscal spending potentially becoming a slight drag on economic growth.

This shift, combined with high-interest rates, may temper business investment and housing activity, both of which saw notable declines in 2023 but are poised for potential improvement in the coming year​​.

Monetary Policy

The Federal Reserve’s approach to monetary policy will be a pivotal factor in 2024. After a series of rate hikes, the Fed funds rate is anticipated to hold steady at 5.25%-5.5% until mid-2024.

If inflation continues to moderate, the Fed is expected to begin cutting rates in June 2024, with incremental 25 basis point cuts at each meeting, potentially bringing the target range to 4.00%-4.25% by the end of the year. This cautious approach is aimed at balancing the need to control inflation while supporting economic growth​.

These rate cuts will have significant implications for consumer loans and household budgets. High-interest rates have already impacted mortgage rates, auto loans, and credit card interest, putting pressure on household finances.

A reduction in rates could provide some relief, making borrowing cheaper and potentially stimulating consumer spending and investment.

Student Loan Forgiveness

The Biden administration’s new student loan forgiveness proposal offers potential relief for millions of borrowers. The plan includes provisions for forgiveness of up to $20,000 for borrowers on income-driven repayment plans whose balances have grown due to unpaid interest. 

It also targets those who have been in repayment for 20 years or more for undergraduate debt, and 25 years for graduate debt, potentially qualifying them for full forgiveness​.

Corporate M&A Activity

Despite the challenges faced in 2023, the M&A market is expected to see a resurgence in 2024. High-interest rates, geopolitical tensions, and economic uncertainty led to a significant decline in deal activity in 2023.

However, with the Federal Reserve holding interest rates steady and potential rate cuts on the horizon, the lending environment is becoming more favorable.

Private equity groups are poised to deploy a record amount of capital, and public market performance is expected to improve. Additionally, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in due diligence processes is becoming more prevalent, indicating a shift towards more strategic and technology-driven M&A activities.

This trend suggests a robust outlook for corporate finance and growth through acquisitions​.

Sustainability Trends

Sustainability and the green economy will remain at the forefront of business strategies in 2024. Advancements in climate technologies, such as carbon capture, hydrogen, and sustainable aviation fuel, are expected to drive significant progress in the energy transition.

These technologies, alongside green infrastructure projects like charging networks and hydrogen hubs, will enable broader adoption of renewable energy solutions​​.

The project finance and tax equity markets are an important piece of the puzzle in terms of funding these initiatives. Demand for renewable energy tax credits is likely to exceed supply, creating opportunities for corporations to purchase tax credits and for project finance banks to offer bridge loans.

Large-scale energy manufacturing projects and green hydrogen projects are also expected to progress, contributing to the overall growth of the green economy​.

The convergence of decarbonization and deglobalization trends will likely accelerate the formation of joint ventures and mega projects, particularly in the U.S. The evolving regulatory environment and increasing private capital support further underscore the importance of sustainability in corporate strategies and investment decisions​.

The financial landscape in 2024 is shaped by a complex interplay of economic trends, monetary policy, personal finance developments, corporate M&A activities, and sustainability efforts. Staying informed and proactive in these areas will be crucial for navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Businesses, individuals, and policymakers must adapt to these evolving trends to ensure financial stability and growth in the coming year.

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