Thank you, Mr. Chairman. While the LIBOR–OIS spread has narrowed somewhat, the mutual fund industry is no longer experiencing waves of redemptions, and commercial paper market conditions have improved, we’re still not back to the short-term credit conditions that prevailed before the failure of Lehman Brothers. This outcome is striking considering the historic interventions that have occurred in the past month. With all of the new government guarantees and equity infusions here and abroad, the limited improvement in short-term credit markets attests to the degree of concern and risk aversion prevailing in financial markets.
These concerns are likely to become even more elevated if the economy slows to the degree expected in most forecasts. Like the Greenbook, our forecast anticipates a significant recession. The Boston forecast includes three consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth and results in an unemployment rate peaking above 7½ percent. The weakening labor market and the large losses in housing and stock wealth make it quite likely that consumption will shrink in the second half of this year. While we need housing to reach bottom, mortgage rates relative to federal funds rates remain quite high, and further job losses are likely to aggravate the upward trend in foreclosures and add to the downward pressure on housing prices. With limited new home purchases and demand for vehicles weak, consumption of consumer durables is unlikely to recover until next year. Commercial real estate, which has held up reasonably well, all things considered, is likely to be much weaker next year as new and rollover financing is difficult to obtain and staff cuts and hiring freezes affect the space needed by businesses. More generally, firms are likely to have little incentive to make new investments until the severity of the downturn becomes much clearer. Unfortunately, many of our trading partners are likely to face an even more severe downturn, aggravated by their slow fiscal and monetary response to deteriorating economic and financial conditions. While the Greenbook assumes the stock market will rise by 8 percent for the remainder of this year—it looks as though that happened today—