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MFS Strategist: 3 Factors Chill Economy

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A change in 1 of 3 factors could save the U.S. economy from entering a recession.

James Swanson, chief investment strategist at MFS Investment Management, Boston, a unit of Sun Life Financial Inc., Toronto, gave that assessment during a recent economic forecast teleconference.

The 3 factors that could move the economy into recession are the price of oil, the decline in the housing market, and the current credit crunch, Swanson said.

The factor most likely to move in a helpful direction might be the price of oil, Swanson said.

The idea of the price of oil falling is plausible, because the market seems to be assuming that oil should sell for $80 per barrel, rather than $133 per barrel, Swanson said.

If, however, the price of oil stays high, the housing market remains weak, and the credit crunch continues, the U.S. economy will move into a recession, Swanson predicted.

Also during the teleconference:

- Swanson said short-term factors may help the dollar. But, in the medium-term, the dollar will drop 8% relative to the euro and 5% relative to the yen, he predicted.

The trade deficit, low interest rates and anemic U.S. growth rates will put pressure on the dollar, Swanson said.

- If the current bear market is true to historical trends, we may be 210 days into a 406-day bear market.

- Companies did not over-hire, over-spend or over-leverage during the recent expansion, and that and low inventories might help support a strong rebound, Swanson said.


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