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NEW YORK CITY-Structural and production shifts in retail and telecom will cause those sectors to have the greatest recovery lag, Bank of America chief economist Mickey Levy said at a Real Estate Lenders Association meeting earlier today. Nevertheless, he forecasted the US markets overall to rebound smoothly in 2003, in part buoyed by strong consumer spending and healthy interest rates.

The US Treasury, claimed Levy, has learned to stem the effects of broad economic shifts, allowing for less severe recessions and faster recoveries. “When you look back on the Mexican defaults, the Russian collapse, and Sept. 11, at each period you wonder how we were able to recover,” said Levy. “If Sept. 11 had happened in a country with greater economic rigidity, that country would still be in a recession.”

Despite retail having seen “extraordinarily strong returns” in August, Levy predicted that this and the telecom sector will see the slowest growth. “Basic retail will under-perform over the next three years, for both durable and non-durable goods,” said Levy. “And I’m not even smart enough to predict when telecom will begin to see a turnaround.”

With federal mortgage interest rates at a 40-year low, he advised owners to refinance their properties now. “I’m seeing no deflation, and interest rates should remain low through 2003,” said Levy. “However, the current level of interest rates is unsustainable and will eventually have to rise.”

Other commercial sectors are primed for recovery as those markets begin to correct themselves. “We’ve seen some soft prices in the industrial, again due to changes in process and distribution,” said Levy. He projected that industrial production would be over 3% growth by the end of this quarter. “Most of the dip in this sector is due to short-term adjustments, such as companies scaling back projects and a restructuring of distribution processes.”

Consumer spending has traditionally been a major factor in market cycles, and Levy predicts that consistently strong confidence levels will drive this sustained recovery as well. “Despite that commercial real estate usually lags greatly behind general recoveries,” he said, “as corporations continue to cautiously restructure we should see continued consumer investments in the real estate market in general.”

The current national property review on GlobeSt.com can be found here, while a regional breakdown of the major US markets may be found here.

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