Our Opinion: Signs along path to sustained economic recovery
Friday, March 2, 2012
Regarding the U.S. economy, we have been wary of “irrational exuberance” since former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan coined the phrase in 1996.
Recent economic indicators, however, at least are grounds to be guardedly optimistic that a sustained recovery is on the horizon.
• Consumer income rose 0.3 percent in January and spending increased 0.2 percent, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The rise marked an improvement from December’s report of no change.
• Consumer confidence climbed significantly in February. The 70.8 reading marked the highest level in a year and an increase over January’s revised 61.5 level.
• Increased consumer confidence was reflected in strong gains reported Thursday by many of the nation’s retailers. Retail sales rose 6.7 percent in February, according to reports.
• Applications for unemployment benefits dipped last week to the lowest level in four years, a sign the job market is improving. Missouri earlier this week reported its unemployment rate had declined to 7.5 percent.
• The NASDAQ composite index cracked 3,000 on Wednesday, one day after the Dow Jones Industrial average closed above the 13,000 mark, its highest level since 2008.
Economic reports, however, were not uniformly upbeat.
Manufacturing activity declined to 52.4 in February, from 54.1 in January, as a result of fewer new orders and higher prices for raw materials. On a brighter note, however, any level above 50 indicates expansion.
And, ironically, indications the U.S. economy is expanding helped push up the price of crude oil. In addition, gas pump prices continued to rise to a national average of $3.74 a gallon.
Considered as a whole, recent economic reports are encouraging.
We must remain mindful, however, that fluctuations are likely as we navigate toward sustained economic recovery.