SMU professors, economists see effects of recession stretching into 2010

SMU professors talk about the likelihood of the current recession stretching into 2010.


DALLAS — It was a "march of the pessimists" at a breakfast of economists and Southern Methodist University business professors on Tuesday.

While all seemed to agree that the North Texas economy is in better shape than the nation’s and has improved, economists say that the effects of the recession will stretch into 2010.

"We have a recession that is in the process of ending," said Harvey Rosenblum, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

"If I had to pick one place to ride out the Great Recession of 2008 to 2010, it would be in the state of Texas, particularly right here in North Texas. Yes, we’ve lost about 100,000 jobs in D-FW over the last 18 months, but we tend to forget that between ’04 and ’07 we added almost 300,000 jobs," said Bernard Weinstein, SMU adjunct professor of business economics and former director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas. "Our employment picture is a lot better. It’s probably the best of any major metropolitan area. The unemployment rate for Texas and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is almost 2 percentage points below the U.S. average."

Here’s what other speakers had to say:

"The commercial real property markets, relative to the last recession, are really quite healthy. What’s really in bad shape is the commercial real estate finance market.  . . .  There will be repricing, but the big issue is in the finance market. There are $1.2 trillion worth of mortgages coming due over the next four years. Something has to happen with those." — Chuck Dannis, president of Crosson Dannis.

"In 2009, the U.S. is going to actually produce more natural gas than in 2008.  . . .  You’ll see that drop in 2010 on the order of probably 2 to 3 to 4 percent. Right now, consumption is down in natural gas about 2 percent overall. . . . .  Inventories for natural gas are at an all-time high. Unless we have an Ice Age-style winter, prices are going to remain in the $4 to $6 range likely through 2010." — Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute.

"If we’re lucky sales will be flat compared to last year. But I do see profits improving.  . . .  What you’re seeing is a focus on needs versus wants. You’re seeing trading down, in other words, people may be buying the same thing, but they’re buying a less expensive alternative.  . . .  Brick-and-mortar retailers will be down slightly, and the Internet sales will be up slightly." — Steve Dennis, executive-in-residence at the JCPenney Center for Retail Excellence.

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