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Recessionís bright side? Bargains for brave consumers A recession may bring some buying opportunities for consumers with cash and the guts to spend it
Letís say you have some cash on hand, your job (or other source of income) is secure, and you love a good bargain. What opportunities might a recession bring?

First a disclaimer: Nobody, including us, knows whatís ahead for this economy or, indeed, precisely whatís happening now. (Recessions are officially determined after the fact by the National Bureau of Economic Research.)

However, the battle-scarred veterans of our Money team have seen our share of recessions, and some of us even took notes. Based on our collective judgment, here are some of the possible buying opportunities that consumers with cashóand the guts to spend itómay find:

Homes. Home prices are already down in many parts of the U.S. Where they go from here is anybodyís guess, but few of us would expect them to rise at a steep pace anytime soon. So if youíre in the market for a home, now could be a good time to start looking and get a baseline feel for the marketóeven if you decide to hold off buying for a while.

Mortgages. Interest rates are already relatively low, averaging 5.42 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage as we write this. Credit standards have been tightening, though, so expect higher hurdles in getting the very best rates.

Stocks. Some are sure to become bargains, but unless youíre a stellar stock picker, consider a no-load stock index fund and hope to benefit from an overall rise in the market. Keep in mind that stock prices will often start upward well before a recession ends, as investors look ahead to better times.

Credit cards. Our resident credit expert thinks people with good credit scores should have a golden opportunity to negotiate for lower rates. Issuers will want to hold onto creditworthy customers more than ever.

Cars. If demand continues to drop (sales for 2007 were down compared to 2006), carmakers and dealers will have to do something to move their wares.

Appliances and electronics. Ditto.

Luxury goods. Sales are already slowing, we hear, so high-end goods may carry less-high prices.

EBay stuff. People eager to raise cash may be auctioning off knickknacks and whatnots in record numbers. So that Pee-wee Herman doll or first edition of Proust youíve long wanted could be yours for the clicking.

Home remodeling. Lower demand should mean more room to bargain and, possibly, less wait to get the work started. If you need to finance your home improvement, you might also find favorable borrowing terms if your credit score is high.

Travel. Our travel expert says to expect fare cuts from the airlines, but beware of the carrier going bankrupt before you can use your ticket. Hotels and rental cars should see cuts too.

Other services. If itís something consumers can put off until the economic clouds clear (cosmetic dentistry vs. an aching tooth, for example), demand should drop and prices along with it. And it rarely hurts to haggleóeven in the best of times.

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