Forecasters See Wobbly U.S. Economy Ahead

By: AP
By: AP

(AP) A growing number of economists believe the United States is on the brink of - or already in - its first recession since 2001 and that it will be longer lasting.

That's part of the latest outlook from forecasters in a survey to be released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics, also know by its acronym NABE.

Close to 69 percent of the economists think the economy has started or will enter a recession this year. That's up from 56 percent in a survey in May. "The general view is .... that this recession will be longer than the last two - lasting roughly one year, but relatively mild," the survey concluded. The 2001 recession started in March and ended in November. The one before that began in July 1990 and ended in March 1991.

Under one classic definition, a recession happens when the economy shrinks for two quarters in a row. The National Bureau of Economic Research, the recognized arbiters for dating recessions, uses a more complicated formula that takes into account such things as employment and income growth.

"Business economists have become more negative on the economic outlook for the next several quarters as a result of the tightness in credit markets and weakness in consumer spending, expecting growth to stall in the fourth quarter," said Chris Varvares, president-elect of the NABE and president of Macroeconomic Advisers.

"If financial conditions fail to improve quickly, near-term economic prospects could deteriorate markedly," he warned.

For all of this year, the economy's growth is expected to slow to 1.8 percent, down from 2 percent last year, the NABE forecasters predicted. Growth will turn even weaker next year at 1.6 percent, they said.

The survey was taken before President George W. Bush speedily signed an unprecedented $700 billion financial bailout into law on Friday shortly after Congress completed action.

The plan would allow the government to buy bad assets from banks and other institutions to shore up the financial industry. The rationale behind this is that by taking these toxic debts off financial companies' balances sheets, they'll be in a better position to raise capital and more inclined to boost lending.

The credit clog, which has intensified in recent weeks, has roiled Wall Street and poses a grave danger to the economy, warned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who backed the bailout measure.

Still, even with the bailout, many analysts predict more pain ahead. Employers will keep cutting jobs and the unemployment rate - now at 6.1 percent - will climb higher. In September alone, the economy lost 159,000 jobs, the most in more than five years, the government reported Friday.

The survey of 48 forecasters was taken Sept. 8 through the Sept. 19; some supplemental questions were taken on Oct. 1-2.

By AP Economics Writer Jeannine Aversa
© MMVIII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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