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March 1, 2009

Thin sliver of silver lining lurks behind black clouds of US economic gloom

The seasonally adjusted Credit Manager’s Index (CMI) fell 0.4% to a record low of 39.7 in January, its sixth consecutive decline, and a sign that the US remains in the economic doldrums, which indicates further challenging times ahead for the country’s events industry.

All 30 components in the indexes are below the 50 level signaling economic contraction. Some 13 are even below 40, suggesting a powerful recession, while 13 are at record lows.

Seven of 10 components fell in manufacturing sector, with six in the service sector.

“It was another grim report,” said Daniel North, chief economist with credit insurer Euler Hermes ACI, who evaluates the data and prepares the CMI report for the National Association of Credit Management (NACM). “Similarly, much of the recent economic data has been worse than expected, suggesting that the economy’s decline may actually be accelerating.”

“There is some positive news however,” said North. “Over the past few months the indexes have been subject to dramatic, almost sickening declines, like the 11.7% drop in manufacturing sales last month. This month’s report seems almost sedate by comparison as the worst fall was only 4.4%.

“In addition, some of the respondents actually had some good news to report this month, apparently seeing a tiny glimmer of light in the darkness. There might also be the slightest hint of a bottom in the housing market, and there might also be some barely visible cracks in the frozen credit markets.

“Combine all this with super loose monetary policy, plummeting energy prices and some new ideas from a new administration, and the optimism expressed by a few of the credit managers might be justified,” he said. “Bear in mind, though, that no matter what, it will be rough going until at least the second half of the year.”

The full report and the CMI archives may be viewed at http://web.nacm.org/cmi/cmi.asp.

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