CONSUMERS: A Recession of Hope

If economists were poets, they would pay more attention to spring. That season of hope and expectation is normally a time for Americans to shake off their winter torpor, get out of the house and spend. Yet when spring began officially last week, consumers were in one of their chilliest moods in many a season.

Despite strength in other economic indicators, nearly every thermometer of national consumer sentiment has plunged. For the first time since 1971, a majority of Americans—54%, to be exact—consider the nation to be in a recession, according to the...

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