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Business Barometer: Q4 2014 Closing Thoughts

Steve Scranton: The economy is going to be heavily influenced by oil prices and the strength of the dollar. For the agricultural sector, energy makes up 30 to 40% of their costs and the lower gas prices have had a strong positive affect. Conversely, agriculture in this area depends on exports, which could be hurt by exchange rates unfavorable to other countries.

Shaun Higgins: The strong dollar has reduced incentives for Canadians and other international travelers to visit the US, which particularly affects communities near the Canadian border, such as Spokane. With American dollars currently worth 30 to 45 percent more in purchasing power in Canada, Europe and Asia, more locals are incentivized to travel and shop internationally – further depressing local and state tax revenues.

Grant Forsyth: The Federal Reserve may decide to delay a long-expected hike in short-term interest rates if growth outside the US remains very weak and threatens the growth of our economy. Central Banks in other countries are pushing down their interest rates or keeping them very low. The US Federal Reserve is worried that an increase in our interest rates could lead to a rapid appreciation of the dollar, which would hurt our exports. I believe the rate increase will still happen in the middle of 2015, but there is some wiggle room for the Fed because of the low inflation numbers. The challenge is for the US Central Bank to manage our domestic economic needs without unduly affecting our trading partners.

Doug Tweedy:  People often ask me, “Are we back to our peak?” Job numbers are being revised upward from the data reported in this Business Barometer and the trend in job creation remains positive. I expect we will reach pre-recession employment levels by mid-2015.

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