April 28th, 2008
07:22 AM GMT
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LONDON, England – Some blame Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman for helping sow the seeds of the housing bubble and the subsequent fallout. Greenspan of course has answered his critics and defends his policies. Agree or disagree with whether Fed policies played a role in the current financial crisis, everyone still wants to know Greenspan's thoughts.

I had a rare opportunity to interview him for 50 minutes last week. It's something few journalists get to do and it wasn't really planned.

I had gone to the European Pensions and Investments Summit 2008 in Montreaux, Switzerland. About 450 people attend. The attendees have collectively about $3 trillion of assets under management. CNN marketing asked me to attend to underscore our commitment to business programming. I originally went to moderate a panel with five chief European economists, but while there I was asked to interview Greenspan.

The interview was conducted via satellite, with the 82 year old Greenspan in Washington. For me there was one question that loomed above all others, the question everyone wants to know: How much longer will the fallout from the subprime crisis last?

Some key players on Wall Street think the worst is now over, and judging by the performance of financial stocks since March 17 (the day the Fed announced the rescue of Bear Stearns) investors are acting like the worst is behind.

Greenspan however sees it differently. He told me he wouldn't go so far as to say the worst is over, even in the financial sector. In terms of the economy itself, he sees a turnaround in housing as a key to moving beyond the crisis. And here's the bleak news, he doesn't see house prices bottoming out until the second half of next year, specifically in the third quarter.

The panel of European economists I interviewed, with the exception of one, is fairly bearish on the outlook for the U.S. economy, with one of those economists seeing no recovery until 2010.

And course, the longer the U.S. economy stays weak, the greater the knock on effect on the global economy.

There are a lot of headwinds for the U.S. economy... banks are keeping lending tight, consumers in the U.S. are getting squeezed by rising petrol prices, rising food prices, and falling house prices.

I think it will take much longer than many expect for the economy to recover. That's why I wasn't surprised when Greenspan told me he's not convinced the worst isn't over. It may be easy to criticize him, but on this score its tough to disagree with him.



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