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Fourth stimulus bill may not be needed if states bounce back: White House official

FILE PHOTO: Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett gestures as he speaks during a news briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A fourth bill to provide stimulus to the U.S. economy may not be needed if states are able to successfully reopen their economies “relatively quickly,” as some forecasters expect, a White House economic adviser said on Thursday.

“I think probably very soon, very shortly, we’ll have a better idea about whether we need to extend the current existing things or move on to new ideas,” presidential adviser Kevin Hassett told Fox News Channel.

“If they really do sort of get back to normal relatively quickly … then there might not necessarily be much need for another bill,” he said, saying the course of the economy will depend heavily on how effectively the nation halts the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. gross domestic product shrank at a 4.8% annual rate in the first quarter, its deepest dive since the end of 2008, and economists expect a sharper contraction in the current quarter.

More than 30 million Americans have joined the unemployment benefit rolls over the past six weeks.

Hassett, speaking to reporters after his televised interview, said President Donald Trump would likely make a decision next week on whether he thinks the economy needs a further near-term lift.

“We’re in a stormy sea and we’re building a bridge to the other shore and we’ve got to get there,” he said on Fox. He said a report on April employment due in early May would likely show the jobless rate jumping to around 19% from 4.4% in March.

Hassett called a forecast for a sharp economic rebound in the second half of the year from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office “very optimistic,” and he said he hoped it would prove accurate.

He said, however, the administration would be ready with policies to propose if the economy needed more stimulus.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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