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Punch another notch in your belt; it looks like another lean year.
Though no one seems to fully understand this recession, economic analysts think they know enough to push back any forecast of a recovery to late 1992 - at best. Whenever it happens, low inventories should cause a quick recovery, while high consumer debt levels may slow it right down again.
Meanwhile, tough times may simply get tougher. The record debt run up by the business sector makes it hard for companies to maneuver and puts a cloud on the long term. Businesses that have succeeded in finding a niche market, or that can capitalize on recessionary changes, will pull through, perhaps becoming stronger in the long run.
Much depends on consumer confidence, in which the media plays a role. Perhaps they should do more to remind us that Americans can still afford to live better that the Japanese and most Europeans.
Though the economy is hurting, it is a strange brew of contrasts. Employment is lower than past recessions - cutting across both white- and blue-collar work forces - but interest rates, too, are lower than they've been in 15 years. Northeast Ohio, with an increasingly diversified economy, is more stable than many other parts of the country, and here, the recession has hurt that much less.
We really wanted to start the New Year by offering some good news, and to be sure, you'll find some in the pages that follow. But like so much else, it seems to be in short supply.
This, then, is how we see the coming year ... from offices ... to plants ... to hospitals ... to the docks.
Prepare for more stormy times as mergers and layoffs dominate the financial news. One expert compares banking now to the steel industry a decade ago: eventual layoff of up to 30 percent of all bank employees to restructure an industry under siege from non-bank competitors.
Congress watchers say the only sure bet on additional bank reform is it will be too little, too late and too compromised to bring the nation's antiquated financial structure into world competitiveness.
Smallish "niche" banks will snap up whatever specialty loans are left ... becoming the decade's most profitable, offering more service at higher prices. Commerce Exchange Bank, Beachwood, may be perfect example of small-bank success: Five years after opening, it holds nearly $100 million in assets through single-minded devotion to small-business customers.
Big regional banks sprouting from mergermania will start acting like fast-food …