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Also in the category of News That Isn't So New: Business bankruptcies continued their "relentless upward pace" in the first quarter of this year, according to Euler Hermes ACI. Reports on the recent performance of the U.S. economy just seem to be getting worse, with an average year-over-year increase of 42 percent in business bankruptcy filings through five consecutive quarters, according to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The culprits are familiar: high energy prices, weak consumer spending, job losses and the credit crunch, according to Dan North, chief economist with Euler Hermes. "These forces are likely to continue for some time and to put increasing pressure on bankruptcies," he said. One way to predict the trend is to look at bankers' current lending conditions. When more than 20 percent of respondents to a quarterly Federal Reserve survey say they are increasing the spreads for loans to smaller businesses, then bankruptcies usually rise in the following quarter.
Euler Hermes, an insurer of business-to-business accounts receivable, continues the drumbeat of negativity in another report which sees no economic recovery for businesses this year. North finds growing evidence that the nation is in a recession, despite the refusal of the National Bureau of Economic Research to call it so (at least as of early July). Real gross domestic product was positive over the past two quarters, he acknowledged, but when net exports are factored out, the results are declines of 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, and 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2008. And while real income has held up, real wages have been falling on a year-over-year basis for six consecutive months, North said. Other danger signs include shrinkage in non-farm payrolls as well as drops in industrial production and real retail sales, with the trends evident for three to six consecutive months. Meanwhile, gas prices have hit record highs and highway vehicle miles are down. "Certainly this data suggests recessionary conditions," North said. He sees "significant difficulties for businesses into 2009."
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