By John McClenahen Perhaps those manufacturing executives and economists who keep saying that a U.S. recovery from recession will get some strong economics legs between now and year-end will be proven right. But it sure doesn't look that way now. "So far, our tracking of all the monthly indicators pegs [second-quarter 2003] real GDP little better than a 1.25% SAAR [seasonally adjusted annual rate] pace -- marking the first time ever, outside of recession, we have had three consecutive quarters of 1%-ish growth," relates David A. Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York. Rosenberg had been assuming that tax cuts would boost GDP growth to a 3.5% annual rate during the current calendar quarter followed by a 2.75% rate in the final quarter of this year. "We've got news for you -- even with the tax relief, we're more concerned about being 'too strong' for [the third quarter] than we are about being 'too weak' for [the fourth quarter]." Such concern seems well-placed. At the end of May, inventories of merchant wholesalers were down 0.3% to $289.3 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on July 9. Economists generally had been looking for a 0.2% rebound from April.