On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will address the annual monetary
conference held in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Amid the U.S. subprime mortgage mess, tightening global credit and a volatile market, everyone is waiting on what Bernanke will say -- and do.
But market opinions are more diverse than some believe. A cross-section of executives, analysts and investment strategists offered CNBC their insights on where the economy stands.
Following is a sample of our coverage.
CEOs To Fed: Act Now
Chief executives across the board are growing more strident in calling for rate cuts.
Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation, warns, "We are absolutely going to have a recession if we don't get rate cuts this year."
Larry Goldstone, president and CEO of Thornburg Mortgage, tells CNBC, "The Fed is not talking about the credit crisis, it's not acknowledging what's going on in the commercial paper market. To me, that's a lack of leadership."
Angelo Mozilo, chairman and CEO of Countrywide Financial, says, "When you're having this level of delinquincies, foreclosures -- I can't believe it doesn't have a material effect on the psyches of the American people and eventually on their wallets."
Chrysler's newly-hired CEO Robert Nardelli and Ford Motor's Alan Mulally each called for rate cuts. And William D. Zollars, chairman and CEO of trucking company YRC Worldwide, said the Fed must look beyond financial firms: " I think the goods economy is beginning to suffer."
Recession Threat 'Real'
Ara Hovnanian, chief executive of homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises, told CNBC on Thursday that the conditions for a recession are rife -- and called for a rate cut by the Federal Reserve.
The company yanked its financial forecasts for fiscal 2007, citing murky market conditions that make it impossible to give accurate projections.
"The credit market disarray is real," the CEO warned. "Clearly, a rate cut would be helpful to the overall economy right now." Hovnanian said a cut would serve as a "psychologically" powerful tonic -- and with "so many adjustable rate mortgages waiting to adjust," a rate cut would "help ease the pain of that adjustment for many consumers."
Rate Cut Cure Worse Than Disease?
Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services, believes that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to find "any way possible" to buttress the economy without resorting to lowering the Fed Funds rate -- and that may be for the best.
"The bulk of the market probably wants to hear a cut," Cashin notes.
But he belongs to a contrarian minority that fears "if you get the cut, you can get a backlash, too." He explains that a cut just may frighten investors into believing "things were even worse than we thought" -- and causing an investor exodus.
Don't Worry, Invest Happily
Eric Thorne, portfolio manager at Bryn Mawr Trust Wealth Management, told CNBC's Mark Haines that there is no recession forming -- period.
"There will be weak areas," Thorne concedes. "But overall, we see the economy continuing to expand, albeit at a slower rate."
"Investors will come back to this market more quickly than people expect," he predicts.
The strategist says health care and consumer staples will underperform; but the smart money should be in industrials, basic materials and technology.
Thorne believes that the Fed "has its finger on the trigger" -- and is fully prepared to cut rates. "It may be on Sept. 18 -- but it may be before that," he says.