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Will There Be a Recession? Economists Weigh In

Will There Be a Recession? Economists Weigh InHow wide and how severe will the fall out from this summer's sub-prime meltdown be? That's the question occupying a great many minds in the financial world. They've got a lot of numbers to crunch, from the rise in new jobs in September, to the markets' big rally on Monday, to soft corporate earnings out this week.

They can add to the mix two other quirky but telling figures out today. First, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that,

Vacancies at U.S. strip malls have reached 7.4%, a 5 1/2-year high. Areas with the weakest housing markets are being hit hard as consumers curtail spending.
The retail sector has previously been a pillar of the commercial real estate business, buoyed by consumer spending underwritten by rising housing prices and easy credit. No longer, it seems.

The LA Times offers another interesting tidbit of economic data:

Cargo containers crammed with foreign-made goods that were supposed to set a record in August at major U.S. ports took an unexpected turn, with imports sinking 1.4% in another sign of the slowing of the economy. Imports of items as diverse as toys and tiles could also be lower in September and October, when retailers will be stocking shelves for the holidays, because shell-shocked shoppers are expected to continue to pull back.
Add that to the September consumer confidence numbers, which were the lowest in two years, and you should expect slowing consumer spending just in time for the holidays. So is there a recession in our future? Bloomberg reports the results of its monthly survey of 70 economists and analysts today. The consensus opinion:
The U.S. economy will skirt recession even as the housing slump takes a bigger bite from growth, according to a survey of economists. The economy will grow at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter, 0.4 percentage point less than forecast last month.
The professionals are also betting on a further 0.25% rate cut from the Fed before the end of the year.

(Image of cargo ship by Kevin, CC 2.0)