To be sure, the inventory story is not the only red flag right now. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is hovering around 10 percent and has shown little sign of recovery. In addition, any positive effects of the economic stimulus are likely dwindling. On top of that, the tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush are set to expire, and the U.S. deficit is so high that even a subtle swing in interest rates can have major negative budget implications.
Given those factors, we might consider ourselves lucky if we experience only the typical decline in growth that follows an inventory spike. In that case, first-quarter growth in 2010 will be right around zero. If that happens, talk of a double-dip recession will ignite.