NEW YORK (Reuters) - Larger-than-expected jobs growth in September has Wall Street economists thinking the United States is unlikely to tip back into recession any time soon although economic growth will remain tepid, according to a Reuters poll on Friday.
The outlook for slow economic growth has most primary dealers -- the 22 large financial institutions that do business directly with the Federal Reserve -- looking for the U.S. central bank to hold interest rates at the current level near zero through 2013.
The median of forecasts from 17 of the 22 primary dealers gave a 35 percent chance the United States will slip back into recession within the next year. That level was unchanged from a similar poll done in late September.
The latest poll was conducted on Friday after the government announced U.S. employers added 103,000 jobs in September, which was above the expectation of 60,000 new jobs.
The higher-than expected jobs growth, along with upward revisions to the number of jobs added in the previous two months, likely means the United States will avoid recession -- for now -- the economists said.
"While the U.S. recovery continues to be inadequate in terms of lowering the unemployment rate, the September payrolls data are consistent with our forecast that the U.S. economy is not on the threshold of renewed recession," said Dana Saporta, economist with Credit Suisse in New York.
The median of forecasts from 19 dealers is for annualized U.S. gross domestic product growth of 1.7 percent in 2011, which was also unchanged from the results of a similar poll conducted in early September. As a comparative, U.S. GDP was up 3 percent in 2010.
The comparatively slow level of growth is expected to have the Fed on hold in terms of interest rates until at least the middle of 2013. Ten of 19 dealers expect rates to remain at the current range of zero to 0.25 percent until at least 2014. Nine of the 19 dealers who answered the question said they expect the Fed to raise rates in the second half of 2013.
"Monetary policy will remain in watch mode until further clarity arrives regarding the key issue of growth into year end," said Derek Holt, vice president of economics at Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto.
The Fed has said in its recent policy statements that "a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013."
However, dealers do not see much of a chance of the Fed moving to further expand its balance sheet through direct purchases of Treasuries any time soon.
The median of forecasts from 15 primary dealers gave a 35 percent chance the Fed will embark on a "QE3" program of Treasuries purchases within the next six months. That was up marginally from a 32.5 percent chance of such a program in a late September poll.
The U.S. central bank is already buying Treasuries under the program dubbed "Operation Twist," in which it is selling shorter-dated debt and buying longer-dated Treasuries in an effort to lower mortgage rates and other long-term borrowing costs and so stimulate borrowing.
The Fed began buying, and selling, Treasuries this week as part of Operation Twist, and almost none of the primary dealers expect the central bank to initiate any further stimulus programs at the next policy meeting, on November 1-2.
Seventeen of 18 primary dealers, asked if the Fed will take further action to support the economy at the November meeting, said "no." The 18th economist said "maybe."
(Additional reporting by Pam Niimi; Editing by Leslie Adler)