Experts predict a sluggish 2nd half

Call it the big fizzle. The hoped-for second-half economic rebound is looking to be lethargic, with the country straining under high energy prices and fallout from the housing and credit debacles.

Forty-five percent of economists believe the economy won't log any growth or will clock in at a feeble 1-percent pace in the final six months of this year, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics. Ten percent think economic activity could actually contract.

“Most forecasters are suggesting the outlook will be sluggish, but not desperate,” said Ken Simonson, point person on the survey and chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. “I'm afraid we're stuck on the ground floor of growth.”

Thirty-two percent, meanwhile, think the economy's growth during the second half could be less than 2 percent, which would mark a plodding performance.

The economy's growth slowed sharply in the final quarter of 2007 and remained stuck in a rut in the first quarter of this year. Tax rebates, which have energized shoppers, should help lift the country out of the doldrums somewhat in the second quarter.

The government releases its estimate of the second-quarter's economic performance at the end of this month. However, as the bracing force of the rebates fade, some analysts fear the economy could hit another rough patch near year's end.