Thank you. I thought I would make a couple of points that underscore the substantial increase in the downside risks that we incorporated into the forecast that you all received on Friday. That change was really encouraged by our economic advisory panel, which suggested that the downside risks were much larger than we were estimating at the end of November.
First, we have been meeting, as of course all of you do, with small business people. Bill Dudley put a panel of investors together, too, and I have a couple observations out of that and our discussions with community bankers. One is that the cutbacks in financing are very real. There is a lot of evidence that the banks are going in and looking at lines and cutting them back to both investors and the small-business community. The small business community is also on the receiving end of much tighter financial management at their larger customers—that is, the people they’re supplying—as those firms are not paying their bills or are extending the terms on which they pay their bills to a much greater number of days. That has induced a hunkering-down mentality on the part of the small business owners. The other sobering thing they pointed out to us—and this is very much in line with Governor Duke’s comments about the community banks yesterday; we hear the same thing—is that small businesses and the community banks can hold out for a while but not forever; margins are getting squeezed, and financing is getting squeezed. The precautionary actions that the small businesses are taking will help them for a while, but they can’t hold out for more than six or nine months.
That is a particularly sobering statement for us in the Second District because, despite the fact that we are at the epicenter of the financial industry in New York—a major driver for the Second District economy—we have only just barely started to feel the effects of layoffs and reductions in activity in the city. Our regional leading indicator index went down very, very sharply in the month of October, but that is still to be realized in the economy. In particular, when we have looked at past episodes, the declines in incomes that we have suffered in the region have ranged between 4 percent and 10 percent in the financial industry when we actually get into one of these adverse periods. That decline is usually spread over three or four years, so we are really talking about something that could last a good bit longer than six to nine months in our District.
Second, we do a survey of inflation expectations that is in many ways similar to the Michigan survey, and our survey results are almost completed and are very similar to those of the Michigan survey. But we do ask one question that isn’t asked there, and that is about the longer run—that is, the 2010-11 outlook for prices and inflation. From that we can impute a risk of deflation, which was 6 or 7 percent in early October and is now 12 percent. So that risk of deflation seems to be growing even in the kind of population that is surveyed by the Michigan folks. Thank you.