Goldman Sachs: Brace For Recession In 2008

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The biggest investment bank on Wall Street has a grim prediction about 2008: a recession is definitely on the way.

Goldman Sachs on Wednesday said it believes the housing slump and recent credit market turmoil will spill over into the broader economy this year. And, by the time it's all over, economists believe the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to 2.50 percent from its current 4.25 percent.

There is a silver lining to the dire prediction, however, since Goldman projects the economy will recover as soon as 2009, making this downturn somewhat "recession-light."

"The recession is likely to last two to three quarters and should be relatively mild by historical standards, with a cumulative decline in real GDP of only about a half percent," Goldman economists' Jan Hatzius and Ed McKelvey said in a research note.

A recession is when the economy shrinks for six straight months, reports CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason. The last time that happened was 2001 after the dot com bubble burst.

Goldman switched to an "outright recession call" following recent economic reports that indicated a spike in the jobless rate, and a decline in home sales and manufacturing. They also expressed concerns that sluggish consumer spending will contribute to a recession.

The economists expect the Federal Reserve will aggressively lower rates to combat the credit crunch, including a half-point cut at its Jan. 29-30 meeting. The contracting economy is likely to push the unemployment rate to about 6.25 percent by late 2008, potentially hurting corporate earnings.

Goldman also expects that Congress and the Bush Administration will push through a temporary tax break later this year as part of a fiscal stimulus plan.

What would all this do to stocks and bonds?

Economists predict that consumer spending will likely post a small outright decline - unlike in the 2001 recession - as the housing downturn contributes to a negative wealth effect and consumers find it harder to obtain credit.

This will put pressure particularly on stocks in the consumer discretionary, financials, industrials, materials and information technology sectors. Sectors that might offer investors some protection in a recession, however, include health care, consumer staples, energy and utilities.

Meanwhile, bond prices are expected to rally as risk-averse investors pull money out of stocks and boost demand for safer, albeit low-yield, investments. Goldman predicts the yield on the 10-year Treasury note - which moves opposite its price - will fall to 3.5 percent by late summer following interest rate cuts. The 10-year yielded 3.78 percent on Wednesday.

All the recession talk has the markets on edge, reports Mason. Stocks rallied Wednesday, but the both the Dow and the Nasdaq are still down more than 10 percent from their recent highs.

Experts are predicting an ugly 2008 as inventories of unsold homes grow and a large number of adjustable-rate mortgages reset, sending more homeowners scrambling to make higher payments and pressuring the already shaky credit markets. What worries industry watchers the most, however, is the possibility that the housing troubles will plunge the economy into a recession.

"I think everyone is expecting the other shoe to fall. There's still some blood to be let," said Jim Gaines, a research economist at The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. "And historically, a downturn in the housing market has been a leading indicator of a recession."