It's `Forecast the Economy' game, based on who might win in November. The opinions we see generally run from "it makes no difference" to "let George do it." No one we spoke to saw a Dukakis victory helping the economy.
* James Annable, chief economist for the First National Bank of Chicago."It doesn't matter who wins. The economy will drive the president rather than the other way around. Neither candidate has shown a real policy that could gain control of the budget and trade deficits. The economy is running at full capacity today. There is little room for improvement in the budget or trade without restraining domestic consumption. And, politically, that is very tough to do."
Annable sees Dukakis more likely to resort to taxation coupled with more social spending; with Bush he expects limited tax increases.
FORECAST: Annable feels the economy is going well. "Once we get through this period of depressed oil prices, inflation and interest rates will rise again," said Annable. "Rates should be flat through March, but by the end of 1989 mortgage rates should climb to 11.5 percent with inflation about 4.8 percent for the year."
* Nathan Ancel, chairman, Ethan Allen (Furniture), Inc., in Danbury, Conn.
"It makes no difference who is elected. The economy is slowing and will continue to do so for the next 18 months. Washington is so locked in to existing spending programs that they can't turn this huge behemoth (the American economy) around in any short period of time."
On industry running at full capacity. "There are dozens of industries that aren't really running at full capacity. Just look at ready-to-wear, home furnishings, shoes, woman's apparel, machine tools, the construction industry, ship building, the auto industry and there are others. I've never met anyone in my life who really knew what full capacity was.
"Production capacity is like a rubber band - add more people, more shifts and some incentives, and your capacity increases by anywhere from 10 to 20 percent."
FORECAST: "Interest rates will probably stay flat or decline slightly as a slower economy reduces a demand for money," said Ancel. "Inflation is no threat, rather we could have deflation."
* Jeffrey Leeds, managing director and chief economist for Chemical Bank of New York.
Irrespective of who is president, Leeds sees the economy's continued strength pushing interest rates higher. However, a Dukakis win could produce higher interest rates faster than a Bush win, because of uncertainty about Dukakis policies.
FORECAST: "Long-term rates should rise as much as 1.5 percentage points over the next 9 to 12 months. Unemployment should fall modestly from present levels. Inflation for 1989 should be about 5.5 percent, but recent oil prices declines will suppress the numbers for a time," said Leeds.
On the dollar. "If Bush wins, don't expect much change for the next 12 months. With Dukakis, in nine months the dollar could be 5 percent lower than today."
* John Pfister, vice president and director of research for Chicago Title & Trust Company, the nation's largest title insurer.
With Bush, Pfister sees an interest rate decline, a housing market surge and strong growth in exports and the economy in general, without significant inflation. The major beneficiaries will be those states with manufacturing plants and export relationships.
"Bush should bring us economic growth and some acceptable gradual tax increases. I can't see a recession for several years," said Pfister.
With Dukakis: "Expect higher interest rates and higher taxes. The economy could slow noticeably as business people retrench and become more conservative about their spending, at least until Dukakis' plans are known."
* THE MEYERS REPORT FORECAST: Expect a strong Bush victory, coupled with falling interest rates, a falling trade deficit and a general economic expansion. Our "full capacity" industrial production should expand further as manufacturers innovate and retooling efforts begun several years ago come on line.
By January 31, mortgage rates should fall to 10 percent or lower, with the 30-year T-bond down to 8.25 percent or lower. Inflation should decline to an annualized 3.5 percent by the end of March.
By June 30: Oil prices should recover to $15 to $17 per barrel; they are now down to $13 per barrel. (The price recovery will be perceived as inflationary even though it's just a recovery.) The dollar should decline about 15 percent and may fall in value to 110 Japanese Yen.
Longer term: Watch noticeable improvements in the budget deficit as an expanding economy pushes tax revenues higher and Bush gives us a series of gradual tax increases. Expect Bush to limit military spending by the end of 1992, as the Russians do the same.
If Dukakis is elected . . . it's hard to say.
Reader questions will be answered and may appear in this column, when mailed to Gary S. Meyers at 20 West Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60610.