The US economy's Sept. 11 wounds are healing but analysts say the country is still in a recession that will linger until at least early next year. \nMore than two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, consumers have resumed many of their normal habits, hitting malls and car showrooms and eating at their favorite restaurants. \nBut economists say that even as Americans start to feel a little safer and happier amid progress in the war in Afghanistan, they will still handle their money a bit more carefully. That restraint is expected to last throughout the holiday season and into the first part of next year. \n"This Christmas is going to be tough, even with all the sales that are going on," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania. \nIt was the initial trauma of the attacks that kept consumers holed up at home in front of their television sets, but their reticence about spending now stems from a different source: fear that they could lose their jobs. \n"The trend on consumer spending is probably still a downward one," Bruce Steinberg, chief economist at Merrill Lynch in New York, said. "The key to what the consumer does is still the job market and companies are continuing to lay people off." \nLayoff announcements flooded in during the first few weeks after Sept. 11. They have slowed to a trickle lately but Steinberg said with corporate profits likely to plumb post-World War Two lows in the fourth quarter, the job cuts are far from over. \nEqually damaging to hopes for a buoyant holiday season is the fact that few companies are hiring. Many economists expect the US unemployment rate -- which jumped a half-point to 5.4 percent in October -- to reach 6 percent in coming months. \nStill, analysts are heartened that the economy is proving more resilient than expected. \n"Things aren't good but they clearly aren't terrible," said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. \nNaroff said a turning point in his view of the economy came when he drove by the local McDonald's and saw that the restaurant had put back up its "Now Hiring" sign. \n"Those signs had disappeared for a while," he said. \nWall Street is finding reasons to be encouraged as well, most notably last week's report from the Commerce Department showing a 7.1 percent snapback in October retail sales after they sank 2.2 percent in September. \nThe October jump was the biggest on record but economists cautioned it was fueled by auto sales, which were in turn juiced up by huge incentive offers from car companies. \nBecause the incentives lured in customers who might have planned to wait to buy a car sometime next year, the surge bodes for weaker sales in coming months. \nSteinberg of Merrill Lynch said investors should be careful not to pin hopes of an imminent recovery on the retail sales data or some better-than-expected jobless claims reports that have come out lately. \n"We are not ready to recover tomorrow," Steinberg said. \n"It's not going to be the worst recession we ever had but it's not over yet." \nIronically, the optimism that the US economy may be poised to pull out of a recession has come before the downturn has even met the loose definition of a recession -- two straight quarters of falling gross domestic product. \nA committee that determines the official dates of recessions in the US was holding a conference call yesterday to decide whether the world's largest economy has slid into one, Martin Feldstein, the president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, said. \nBut the NBER, the nation's official arbiter of recessions, may not determine a date and even if it does, the official announcement will not come until next week at the earliest. \nGDP fell 0.4 percent in the third quarter, the first drop in eight years. Most economists feel certain it will log another contraction in the current fourth quarter. But that data won't become available until late January. \n"We'll probably get a good-sized negative number for fourth quarter GDP, down 2 percent or so," Zandi of Economy.com, said. \n"We'll probably get another negative number in the first quarter." \nBut Zandi and other economists were breathing sighs of relief that the doomsday scenarios circulating just a few weeks ago have failed to materialize. \n"The worst-case scenarios look like they are starting to fall away," James Glassman, economist at JP Morgan in New York, said. \n"The world is not looking great but it's not as dire as it looked at the end of the week of Sept. 11."
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations