A resurgent auto industry has weathered the supply-chain hitches that stifled production during the spring and is poised to double the pace of U.S. growth in the third quarter, according to some estimates. But that may not be enough to help beleaguered consumers and businesses get a flagging recovery back on track.
The gross domestic product report due Friday from the Commerce Department is expected to show the economy grew at a 1.8% annual rate in the second quarter, down from 1.9% in the first quarter and the slowest pace in a year, according to economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires.
The pace of the economy in the spring was a disappointment, caused largely by shortages of key automobile parts following Japan's earthquake and tsunami. Federal Reserve figures show that U.S. auto plants cut back motor vehicle production 5.9% in the second quarter from the first quarter -- enough to significantly slow the economy.
With supply chains in better order, auto production is bouncing back. Toyota Motor Corp. has said it expects its North American production to return to normal this month. Volkswagen AG is ramping up production at a new plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. General Motors Co. is in the process of adding a third shift at an assembly plant in Flint, Mich.
在供应链状况有所好转的情况下，汽车生产开始恢复。丰田汽车(Toyota Motor Corp.)说，预计该公司在北美的生产本月将恢复正常。大众汽车(Volkswagen AG)开始提高田纳西州查塔努加(Chattanooga)一家新建工厂的产量。通用汽车(General Motors Co.)则在为密歇根州弗林特(Flint)一家组装厂增设第三个班次的过程中。
The jump in car manufacturing should filter into employment and spending as well. As auto production picks up, then, so could jobs and wages -- which in turn could help consumer spending. In an optimistic scenario, that might create a scenario where overall spending and hiring are feeding on one another, and putting the economy on the path to stronger growth.
But the economy may be too weak for such a virtuous circle to take hold. Auto sales were sluggish in May and June, in part because the disasters in Japan led to fewer cars on dealer lots, but also because higher gasoline prices and worries over the job market made consumers less willing to spend.
Indeed, the sluggish sales prompted some auto makers to rein in production plans a bit for the third quarter, noted J.P. Morgan economist Michael Feroli. He forecast that GDP will increase at a 2.5% rate in the third quarter, and that auto production will lift growth by between a half and full percentage point. “It's still certainly going to be a positive,” he said.
实际上，摩根大通(J.P. Morgan)经济学家费洛里(Michael Feroli)指出，疲弱的销售促使一些汽车厂商三季度小幅缩减生产计划。他预测，三季度GDP将以2.5%的速度增长，汽车生产将使经济增速获益0.5至1个百分点。他说，汽车生产仍然肯定会推动经济增长。
The gain may be ephemeral, however, as fallout from the housing bust and the recession persists.
"I don't think the bounce back in auto production in and of itself is going to mean that much," said Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius. "It's not going to be able to carry the third quarter."
高盛(Goldman Sachs)经济学家哈祖斯(Jan Hatzius)说，我认为，汽车生产的复苏本身并没有太大的意义。这将无法影响三季度。
Mr. Hatzius pointed out that data so far for July, including sharply lower consumer sentiment figures, suggest the quarter has gotten off to a poor start. His takeaway is that while temporary factors such as supply-chain disruptions have hurt the economy, they can't explain all of what's going on.
He suspects the underlying problem is that badly damaged balance sheets have made it more difficult for households to adjust to shocks that they used to absorb readily.
When gasoline prices go up, for example, people can't as easily tap into savings or borrow to cover the higher cost, so they quickly cut back on other items.
That lack of flexibility is damping consumer spending, which in turn is making businesses less willing to make new hires. The result is an economy that, despite the occasional glimmer of hope, can't grow very fast.
"The economy is just weaker and it's going to stay weaker,"said Mr. Hatzius. "That's the unfortunate conclusion here."