The ‘Yes, but ...’ economy

`The U.S. and world economies are on the verge of recovery, following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. So spake Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in a meeting in Jackson, Wyo., last week.

We’re as eager as most people to embrace the recovery that Bernanke predicts. We just wish there weren’t so many, “Yes, but ...” caveats.

• “The prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good,” Bernanke said.
Yes, but he also said, “Although we have avoided the worst, difficult challenges still lie ahead.”

• Existing home sales rose for the fourth straight month in July.
Yes, but the vast majority of those sales were distressed sales, homes in foreclosure or where the owners are behind in payments, according to The Wall Street Journal.

• Industrial output in this country rose in July, the first time since October of last year.
Yes, but U.S. consumers remain wary. They’re hoarding their cash rather than spending it, and that has led to a dip in retail sales.

• The national unemployment rate fell in July, the first time since April, 2008.
Yes, but new jobless claims rose more than expected last week and the unemployment rate is still expected to top 10 percent nationally later this year.

Overall, there are numerous conflicting economic messages. There’s plenty of data to encourage the glass-half-full types. But there is nearly as much for the glass-half-empty pessimists.

Yes, but the trends are in the right direction. That’s far better than the end of last year and the beginning of this one, when virtually all of the news was bad.


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