There's a great deal of uncertainty about where the economy is headed in 2010, the chief investment officer for Kansas City, Mo.-based UMB Bank said Thursday.
Bill Greiner was in Wichita to give his annual market outlook —"Standing on Shifting Sands" was the name of his presentation — to more than 130 people at the Wichita Country Club.
"Don't make any concentrated bets because things might be a lot different a year from now," he said to the audience, comprising UMB investment customers and local businesspeople. "It's going to be very difficult to find a foothold going forward."
He said the economy could continue its slow growth or it could pick up, largely from an increase in exports.
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A third scenario is that the economy could contract again and face a double-dip recession.
Greiner said the economy has been rebounding, but in "lackluster fashion." Any economic shock could affect an already brittle recovery.
He said he thinks spending among consumers and businesses is going to remain tight.
"That downturn was so steep... that the way they operate on a daily basis really has changed," he said. "People are still scared about what happened to them."
Thus they are scared about spending money and are saving and paying down debt instead, he said.
While there are indications of efforts to pay down debt, there's still "too much debt in the system and too much outright leverage."
Despite the threat of a double-dip recession, Greiner said he does expect to see the recovery continue, albeit slowly.
UMB's expectations, he said, are for real gross domestic product growth of 3 percent for the year.
Consumer expenditures should increase 2.8 percent. He said he also expects the unemployment rate nationally to fall to 8.5 percent by the end of the year.
And he's expecting national housing starts to total 190,000.