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S&P Economist: You Call This A Recovery?

Standard & Poor Chief Economist David Wyss praised consumer spending during New York University’s Hospitality Investment Conference earlier this week. Speaking about the economic recovery ahead, Wyss commended American consumers for their resiliency — but his praise was noticeably lopsided.

"Consumers are doing their job well, but no one else is. Capital spending among businesses is still on hold," said Wyss, who spearheads S P’s economic forecasts and publications. Wyss addressed the conference as one of two "economic spin doctors" who were asked to anticipate U.S economic conditions over the next 12 months. The other speaker on the panel was Gail Fosler, senior vice president and chief economist at The Conference Board.

Wyss hedged on calling Wall Street’s latest rise as a full-fledged recovery, saying that if this is a recovery, "it isn’t much of one."

He then addressed the question on most economists’ minds: How is the recovery shaped? To Wyss, the market has traced a "lazy U" shape for several months running, and it’s unclear where on that letter we find ourselves now. Other possibilities include a "V" shaped recovery — the one everyone hopes for, which drops sharply but rises abruptly — or a "W" shaped recovery.

Interest rate fluctuations will ultimately guide the shape of the recovery, especially for owners of real estate who have been refinancing as a way to stay solvent. Other areas of concern that hinge on rate movement, said Wyss, are "local housing bubbles." He emphasized that the housing bubbles are small-scale rather than widespread, however. "Housing is clearly overvalued. Not everywhere, but in a lot of places," he said.

So when will we feel like we are in a recovery? According to Wyss, "not until the start of 2004."

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