Don’t shake your head in disbelief, but after six mind-boggling months, the worst of the recession may be over.

Some financial forecasters believe the economy is leveling off.

This week, Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest banks, reported record profits.

Several retailers see solid April sales.

Nationally, with almost 6 million people receiving unemployment insurance, unemployment-benefit filings have slowly decreased.

Thursday, the Dow Jones industrials average rose 246 points.

Brian Bethune, economist at IHS Global Insight, told The Associated Press, “I think we can say we’ve gone through the most terrible part of the recession.”

What “terrible part” of the recession people are in can depend on where they are located.

“I can see it leveling off across the nation,” said Bob Massey, community president of Salin Bank. “But for our economy around here, it is too early to call. We are going to have to wait and see what happens with Delphi, GM and Chrysler. I do see some signs of activity here. There has been a spark in business loans. That’s an economic sign of improvement, but it’s still nothing like we want it to be.”

The economy shrank at a 6.3 percent rate in the final three months of 2008, the worst showing in a quarter-century. Some economists say it fared about as poorly in the first three months of this year, while others expect a 4 percent to 5 percent rate of decline.

And the economy is still shrinking in the April-June quarter — perhaps at a rate of 2 percent to 2.5 percent, some analysts say.

However, even if the recession were to end this year, most economists believe economic activity won’t return to a more normal pace of around 3 percent to 3.25 percent until late next year.

“Yes, we have probably seen the worst ... but the shape of the recovery will look more like the Nike swoosh,” meaning a gradual — not sharp — rise back to normal, said John Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia Corp.

Mike Stegall doesn’t need to hear what an analyst or economist has to say about a recession rebound. Nevertheless, he does wish he “had a crystal ball. What they are saying are just guesses at best.”

“I feel better than where we were two months ago,” continued the president of Community First Bank “but I would say it may be the last quarter of this year, or the first half of next year before we see a recovery. If I were betting, that’s what my bet would be.”

Brian Adams, president of Adams Auto Group in Kokomo, doesn’t need to bet on when the recession will end. He foresees his business continuing to prosper while others can wonder when the recession will end.

“We have been fortunate,” said Adams, owner of two Kokomo used-car dealerships. “Business has been great. I am going to blow our horn a little. We have a good reputation and it has paid off for us. For the first quarter this year, sales were up 25-30 percent over where we were last year. It’s really a two-blade sword: When times get tough, people buy used cars. When we go to [car] auctions, we are competing with the new car dealers.

“Unless your credit is bad, it’s not an issue getting financing either. If your credit is good, you will get the money.”

And if you have the money, one way to spend the money is to purchase a home.

With President Barack Obama’s administration making efforts to bring down mortgage rates — including offering a $8,000 federal-tax credit for first-time home buyers — now would be an “excellent time to purchase a home,” according to Kevin Hardie, of The Hardie Group, a real estate company.

“There is a good selection of homes to choose from,” he said. “There are good values and they are affordable. I can’t make a prediction at this time on when the recession will end or are we coming out of it. With the auto industry a big part of this community, there are too many variables here in Kokomo. We remain hopeful, but if I had the answers, I would be rich.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

K.O. Jackson can be reached at (765) 854-6739 or via e-mail kirven.jackson@kokomotribune.com

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