Don't clutch at straws.
The CBI has put out its gloomiest estimate for the British economy since 1992 - the year house prices fell off the cliff triggering an allround recession. That time the 1.9 per cent forecast equalled yesterday was the harbinger of a recovery, which did eventually materialise after various misadventures.
In 1992 the mischief was plain to see. Interest rates and unemployment had both shot up taking a luckless generation of over-hopeful home-buyers ruinously by surprise. Then an ill-judged attempt to line Britain up to join what later became the euro had lumbered us with a grossly over-valued currency.
This time there is no such clarity. The economy has just run out of breath.
Again, you can blame the housing market. But nothing has really gone wrong with it. On the contrary, it has achieved the "soft landing" which many clever pessimists said was impossible.
Still, some home-buyers feel they have borrowed enough for now, so they are taking a breather in the shops. The same goes for others who were borrowing a bit extra with re-mortgages. Now house prices have stopped going up, the temptation to take the profit in borrowed cash has evaporated.
It was already happening in the Spring. The CB has done no more than adjust its forecast in line with the official numbers for the first half of the year. It is all rather dismal, but there is no crisis. Unemployment has been creeping up, but it is still only 4.8 per cent. The number of people in work is moving up too, but earnings are still rising within the Bank of England's 4.5 per cent "comfort zone".
It is hard to believe that all the Polish plumbers and Slovakian gardeners are preventing $60 oil from fuelling a pay explosion. But they are doing no harm - except those who cannot tell the difference between fertiliser and weedkiller.
Yes, life would be less fraught without $60 oil. But it has been worse before.
As to straws, well the motor industry comes out far less glum than most of manufacturing in the CBI's industrial trends survey. On the grander scheme of things, there's a scattering of signs of continental Europe coming back to life - just as Ken Clarke discovers that the miserable euro has done nobody any good, least of all himself.
Whatever the reason, British exports are holding up remarkably well. The CBI reckons they will be 4.1 per cent ahead year-on-year in early 2006.
They could do better still if the Germans recover their nerve and start buying British again in earnest. n n n Unlike two-thirds of my fellow citizens, I have never been to a car boot sale. I just get stuck in the traffic jams outside them.
Now the Pru claims they generate a curiously precise £1.46 billion a year for people who sell their odds and ends in them.
That is the kind of windfall money that the building society de-mutualisations spread around ten years ago - except that this is cash, not shares. That is not negligible, taxfree, too, and hard to tax.