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Experts Say Financial Downturn is Over

The National Association for Business Economics says the U.S. downturn is over. About 200 of the group's economists are meeting in Washington to discuss global economic growth.

Association President Harvey Rosenblum, a Dallas Federal Reserve board researcher, says he believes the economy has been growing since December.

Mr. Rosenblum said the turnaround came when consumers concluded that the country had withstood the shock of the September terrorist attacks, that their jobs were probably safe, and that it was all right resume normal activity. "That was when the inkling of a turnaround began," he said. "Who knows how it is going to be dated statistically. We need many more months of data before anybody is going to have confidence in that. But I will stick my neck out and say the recession ended December 15."

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline. America's first recession in a decade is said to have begun in March 2001.

Mr. Rosenblum said the recovery is stronger than many experts anticipated. "We keep raising our estimates of how good the economy is going to be this year," he continued. "Suffice it to say that it will be a decent year, not statistically the very strong bounce back from recession that we usually see, because this was a very short and mild recession. The consumer sector which was very, very strong during the recession, there is not very much room for a bounce back. People bought an awful lot of cars last year. [because of low financing charges] They bought a lot of homes and furniture last year. So there is not that much room for a bounce back. But it will be a pretty good year, but not the kind of seven-percent bounce back you usually get."

The business economists forecast about 4 percent growth for this year. They expect short-term interest rates to begin to rise and they believe unemployment will not go much above the current 5.7 percent rate.