Will business rescue us?
The great jolt to confidence caused by last autumn's banking crisis, and our collective uncertainty about what the future holds, has prompted vast numbers of us to endeavour to reduce our indebtedness.
As Stephanie has mentioned, official statistics indicate a sharp increase in the rate of saving by British households, after years in which we accumulated unprecedentedly large debts.
Suddenly that all-time record 175% (or so) ratio of household indebtedness to disposable income feels like a dreadful millstone.
Of course, thanks to the munificence of the Bank of England in slashing Bank Rate and creating £200bn of new money, it is not the interest payments that are bearing down on us, but the overall indebtedness.
The principal on the household debt (still greater than our GDP) may seem unbearable at a time when expectations for growth in our earnings and in the value of our assets have been very considerably diminished.
That said, it is not impossible that rising interest rates could at some point put a squeeze on consumers' capacity to spend, as the Bank of England has helpfully pointed out in its latest Financial Stability Report.
This shows that if inflation bubbled up and the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee felt obliged to increase interest rates to the levels of just a few years ago, households would be paying out eye-watering amounts of their earnings to service the interest on their debts (with Bank Rate at 5%, households on average would be allocating between 11% and 14% of their income to interest payments, which would be a very high proportion by all historical standards).
That said, and as the minutes published this morning of the last MPC's last meeting make clear, there's no great likelihood of Bank Rate rising sharply any time soon.
However bosses of retailers tell me that they are not expecting 2010 to be a return to boom times. And no-one should expect a great splurge of consumer spending to power us out of our economic torpor.
So what will be the source of the UK's economic recovery?
Well it's plainly not going to come from the public sector, with government indebtedness rising at an unsustainable rate and the main parties engaged in an argument about the scale and pace of spending cuts, not the inevitability of such cuts.
Any oomph would probably have to come from private-sector businesses, especially investment by them.
So just how likely is it that industry and services will be our salvation?
Well let's start with the anecdotal evidence.
As is my wont this time of year, I've asked a bunch of business leaders - in an informal way - what they expect from 2010.
None were preparing for a massive increase in demand for their stuff. And although they assumed that the recession was over in a technical sense, they did not expect the recovery to feel massively better for themselves or their staff than the depressed conditions of the past year or so.
On employment, they were not prepared to commit that there would not be further redundancies.
Some admitted that they had been "hoarding" labour, keeping people on in the hope of better times - but there could come a moment (perhaps early in the new year) when those hopes were dashed and there would have to be a further round of job losses.
As for investment, business leaders said they were behaving (unsurprisingly) rather like households: they would rather reduce indebtedness or accumulate cash, than make substantial financial commitments.
Those views are consistent with the Bank of England agents' survey [360 KB],
which describes the outlook for investment as flat. It paints a picture of businesses that plan investment increases being offset by those preparing for cuts, with small and medium size businesses tightening belts more than big ones.
That's not particularly cheering, coming - as the Bank points out - after a fall in investment spending in the UK which has been significantly greater than during past recessions.
For those of a pessimistic cast of mind, these trends are probably too reminiscent of the sustained falls in business investment that prevented Japan from growing for more than a decade.
And as in Japan, it is the hard numbers on lending to business that should probably be given greater weight than what business leaders actually say.
In Britain, the credit statistics are dire.
The annual rate of lending to business has been falling at an ever greater rate, month after month, to a decline of 7.6% in October (the last month for which figures are available).
This squeeze is a mixture of less credit being available, especially from non-British lenders, and of reduced demand for credit.
It is true that some businesses are choosing to issue bonds and new shares rather than borrow from banks. However the net overall supply of finance to business remains flat, even including the proceeds of those fund-raisings.
Also, certain really important sectors - notably manufacturing - have raised next to nothing from capital markets while also massively reducing their borrowing from banks.
There was a tiny glimmer of recovery in lending just by British banks to business reported for November by the British Bankers' Association.
However this figure may be a rogue, since it is skewed by a slightly odd bounce in borrowing by "real estate, renting and other business services", while manufacturers continue to borrow less.
My take on what's happening goes like this: stronger businesses are frequently choosing to save rather than spend; banks are refusing to provide new finance to weaker businesses: and the very weakest businesses are being kept on life support by banks which may not wish to endure the political and financial pain of putting too many of them into administration all at the same time.
As of now, an investment-led British economic revival does not look imminent.