Nearly 40% of economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economists believe the Federal Reserve will start to scale back its stimulus program in the fourth quarter, despite a widely held assumption that it will begin sooner. The Fed may be reacting to recent economic indicators that suggest differing directions in the economy, such as the drop in durable-goods orders reported earlier this week. "Such activity points to a defensive mentality on capital spending, doing only what is necessary to maintain the current level of growth," said Cliff Waldman, senior economist at MAPI.

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