Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Another Heavy Hitter is Increasing the Chances for a Recession

The former Secretary of the Treasury is stating that the chances of a recession have gone up. Tighter credit standards, higher interest rates, etc. could cause a slow down in consumer spending, from Bloomberg:

The pain from higher borrowing costs may be spreading as consumers and businesses follow investors in shying away from risk, increasing the odds of a recession.

``While there is no basis for predicting a recession right now, the risks have surely gone up,'' says former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, now a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ``The combination of softness in the housing sector, contractions in credit, increased uncertainty and volatility, and losses in wealth make the chances significantly greater now.''

Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. are among those lowering economic forecasts as the rising cost of credit prolongs the worst housing recession in 16 years. Now, two areas of the economy that have held up well so far, jobs and consumer spending, no longer appear immune to the fallout. . . . .

. . . . ``We're taking the pulse of the economy a little more frequently,'' says Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse Holdings in New York. ``If the spillover from the credit crunch gets into autos, it would be the second major sector to fall and would solidify a lot of the fear in the markets.'' . . . .

. . . . Confidence is critical at key junctures in the economy. If consumers and companies turn more pessimistic about the outlook and cut back on their spending, such gloominess can prove to be self-fulfilling, triggering a recession.

A sudden drop in consumer confidence at the end of 2000, coupled with a contraction in manufacturing and a two-year-low in motor-vehicle sales, helped set the stage for the last recession, which began in March 2001.

The omens today aren't particularly promising. An index of global business confidence compiled by Moody's Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania, fell in late August to its lowest level since the middle of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Consumers are also showing signs of being spooked by the turmoil in financial markets. U.S. consumer confidence tumbled last month by the most since Hurricane Katrina struck two years ago, according to the Conference Board, a private research group in New York.

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