BRUSSELS -- Nearly three months after the collapse of world stock markets, many economists have concluded that western European economies will escape almost unscathed, barring further upheaval.
Forecasters in recent weeks have revised downward slightly their predictions for European economic growth in 1988, but most say the gloomier outlook is due more to the dollar's weakness than to the stock plunge.
Few see any prospect of a recession hitting Western Europe before 1990.
"We're slightly on the gloomy side of normal, but it's certainly not tearing the hair out," said Geoffrey Horton, chief economist in the London office of DRI Europe, a research and consulting firm.
Horton and other economists said the impact of the October stock market collapse probably would be felt more strongly in the United States than in Europe because U.S. shares are more widely held by the public. As a result, European consumer spending is less likely to be hurt, they said.
"Consumer confidence in Europe has not been affected by the crash," said Francis Uyttebrouk, an economist at the Brussels office of the Wefa Group, a consulting firm. "Consumers have not scaled back."
He said early fears expressed by economists that the October debacle would trigger a worldwide recession in 1988 probably were exaggerated.
"By now we have enough evidence to say the effect has been close to nothing" for Western European economic growth, Uyttebrouk said.
The main worry among economists and European governments is that continuing policy disagreements between the United States and its major trading partners -- or other factors -- could trigger another stock market debacle or a spectacular collapse of the U.S. dollar.
"The uncertainty is what worries me," said Brian Hindley, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics. "The uncertainty stems from not understanding why the stock market crashed" in the first place.
Hindley said the stock slump would have "some minor effect" on European economic growth this year, but that he saw no sign of an impending recession.
"I don't see any particular reason for pessimism," he said.
Most economists in Europe have revised downward their projections for 1988 economic growth since October, although they also see a brighter outlook for inflation and cheaper bank lending rates.
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose 24 member governments represent the bulk of world trade, said on Dec. 15 it had lowered its projection of 1988 economic growth in the European Economic Community to 1.75 percent, after inflation.
Last June, the organization had forecast a 2 percent EEC growth rate.
The report said inflation in the EEC would average 3 percent this year, compared with the 3.25 percent rate it had projected last June.
It said Western economic growth would be "only slightly weakened" by the stock plunge, but added that a global recession was possible in the event of "prolonged or acute financial-market turmoil."
Horton, the DRI Europe economist, said his firm had substantially reduced its forecast for economic growth in Italy next year, but that the outlook for the other three major European economies -- West Germany, Britain and France -- was little changed from before October.
He said that since a dramatic rise in stock prices during the five years before the crash had not caused a major jump in economic growth rates in Europe, there was little reason to think the reverse would happen.
Uyttebrouk said his firm had lowered its forecast for European economic growth to 2 percent for 1988 from its pre-crash projection of 2.4 percent.