Carolyn Lochhead
San Francisco Chronicle
February 23, 2009

If 30 years of financial crises teach anything – in Scandinavia, Japan, other parts of Asia and Latin America – the worst is not over for the U.S. economy. But that may be the good news.

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This time, a tightly interdependent world has entered a synchronized contraction. Pretty much everyone is in trouble, leaving the world without an engine.

“We are in economic terra incognita,” said Joseph Grundfest, a finance professor at Stanford University and co-director of the Rock Center on Corporate Governance.

If the averages of previous crises hold, Americans can expect unemployment to reach 11 or 12 percent, housing prices nationally to drop 36 percent, stocks to lose more than half their value, and real output per capita to plunge 9.3 percent, according to economists Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University, who have tracked financial crises back to 14th century England.

“Certainly the averages themselves are pretty discouraging,” said Reinhart. “Because this crisis is as bad as they come.”

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