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Economist: War's end would offer boost

DULUTH - The U.S. economy isn't so bad, but it would be a lot better if or when the Iraq war ends, economist Donald Ratajczak said Monday.

For more than a dozen years, Ratajczak has given an annual economic forecast to the Council for Quality Growth.

This year, he predicted a leveling of prices for cement, steel and oil and a slight downturn in the growth of jobs in the area.

"We are in an adjustment phase," he said of the housing market, which many economists have called a bubble they expect to burst soon.

Ratajczak was more optimistic, saying the Federal Reserve board chose to slow the economy to root out housing speculators.

Yes, he said, Atlanta does have too much inventory, and construction of new houses has slowed to balance it out.

After Ratajczak's speech Monday, Mike Guynn of McGowan Properties said he wasn't worried about the housing bubble bursting in Gwinnett County.

"It's an adjustment more than anything, not a bubble," he said. "When there are any efficiencies, it will work itself out. It's not a Florida or a Las Vegas situation."

To get a handle on inflation, Ratajczak foresees the Federal Reserve board, which meets today, will wait until late spring to begin cutting interest rates.

Ratajczak encouraged a concentration on freeing congestion to be able to draw more jobs to the area, but he predicted Delta's operations would not leave the airport, even if the struggling company is bought out.

With one General Motors plant closed and another planned to shut down, as well as the buy-out of BellSouth, Ratajczak said Georgia companies are being under-valued, but he still projected the addition of 50,000 to 55,000 jobs in 2007, most of those in small businesses.

The ending of the war in Iraq would do a lot to boost the economy, he said when prompted by a question.

"Iraq is reducing confidence," he said.

In addition to boosting the consumer and investment mood, a successful emergence from the war would also free up government resources to put the money into other avenues, he added.

Ratajczak said the war has kept American companies from investing internationally, so the end of the conflict could help in that as well.