Msnbc readers saw this downturn coming

/ Source: readers proved prescient a year ago, correctly assessing the bleak economic conditions as a recession and forecasting a decline in the stock market, according to results of our unscientific survey.

Going into 2008, nearly half the 6,000 readers who took our survey believed the economy was already in recession and another 27 percent believed a recession would begin at some point during the year.

A panel of economists confirmed Dec. 1 that the recession had begun in December 2007 — a year earlier. Many forecasters don't expect the economy to begin expanding again until the second half of 2009, which would make it the longest downturn since the Great Depression.

Our readers also correctly predicted that the stock market would take a nosedive in 2008, with 62 percent expecting a decline in the Dow Jones industrial average and only 25 percent expecting an increase. (Click here to see last year's results.)

Of course nobody was prepared for the severity of the financial crisis that wiped more than one-third of the value from the stock market.

That includes editors: Our survey allowed readers to choose from a fairly narrow range, with a worst-case scenario showing the Dow losing 10 percent or more. In fact, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 33.8 percent for the year.

It was the market's worst year in more than 75 years, based on the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index. The S&P finished the year down 38.5 percent, making it the worst year since the index shed 47 percent in the Depression year of 1931. The Nasdaq posted its worst year ever, with a 40.5 percent drop.

The Dow has lost ground five times in the past nine years, while the S&P has fallen in four of the past nine. (Major indexes were mixed in 2005.)

For 2009, we are offering a wider set of options for our intrepid readers to weigh in. This year's survey uses our new Newsvine format, allowing readers to add a comment along with their vote.

Also, this survey will automatically close on Jan. 31, so get your votes in now.

And be sure to read our complete coverage of the economic forecast from our economic roundtable, including full predictions for the year ahead.