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Manufacturers predict stronger economy in ’07

Housing a 'drag,' but with inflation in check interest rates could go down

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Residential housing will "continue to be a drag on the economy" in the first half of 2007, but solid growth in investment and trade will help the economy grow at a faster rate next year than in 2006, according to a trade group representing manufacturers. The economy will grow at 2.9 percent in 2007 and 2.8 percent in 2008, the National Association of Manufacturers forecasts, up from 2.1 percent in 2006. Remove the housing sector from the equation, and gross domestic product (GDP) actually grew 3.3 percent in the second and third quarters of 2006 -- close to the 3.4 percent rate achieved in the prior four quarters, said the association...