NEW YORK -- Monday marked the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast this weekend was just the latest reminder that weather holds a tremendous sway on economic activity.
Winter's impact presents a particularly big risk to the outlook. The second half of 2009 has seen fairly robust activity as the U.S. has come out of recession. But if the weather drags down first-quarter growth, expect to hear more talk of a double-dip downturn. Economists will have to separate the problems caused by Mother Nature versus the longer-term weakness from deleveraging and high unemployment.