Are you looking for a stock?
Try one of these
For sure, expectations were too high. Honestly you could practically hear the global sigh of relief when the U.S. posted a couple of decent economic reports. Thank goodness, they're back, forget about Europe, the U.S. will save the world, let's move on. So maybe it should be no surprise that the U.S economy, if not exactly faltering, is not living up to the goals set by the financial markets and the world.
Let's go back a bit.
The U.S., as we all know, has been coming back at a glacial pace from the recession that officially ended in June of 2009. Jobs have been a particular problem, although for a couple of months, gains were in the neighbourhood of more than 200,000 a month. The unemployment rate was falling sharply. Of course people got optimistic. After all, as well as everything else there had been a couple of rounds of quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve, which could reasonably have been expected to jolt things a bit.
So what is going wrong? Nothing really, except that the last batch of indicators point to an economy that is growing pretty slowly. This week, two surveys of manufacturing activity -- from New York and from Philadelphia -- did not match market expectations for a continued strong expansion. Manufacturing is still growing apparently, but the pace is a lot more sluggish than many had expected.
The jobs picture is a concern too.
U.S. jobless claims have been trending downward for months, and as of a few weeks ago, hit a four week low before starting to inch up again. At 386,000 this week they are still under the 400,000 mark -- the 'magic' threshold when everyone starts to worry. Still, you can feel the unease growing. The U.S. unemployment rate has moved down from 9.1 percent last fall to 8.2 percent as of March, but there is no guarantee that any further decline will not come pretty slowly.
Then again, even parsing at the economic indicators has a whiff of looking backwards. Let's look forward instead. Best indicator to do that? Oil prices.
Oil prices are arguably the best leading indicator of where the U.S. is going. Time after time (think 2007, if you want a recent memory) a promising economic situation is knocked sideways by the fact that it costs U.S. consumers more to fill up their vehicles and heat their homes. That has not shown up in a big way this year (a warm winter and an early spring has no doubt cushioned the impact for part of the U.S.), but it's a bit of a ticking time bomb, with oil pries prices over $100 US a barrel (West Texas Intermediate) and all.
Does it look like another recession for the U.S.? No, probably not, which is the good news. The bad news is that it looks like the same kind of you-call-this-a-recovery-recovery that has been going on for years now.
Should somebody do something about it? That's going to be the question when the Federal Open Market Committee meets April 24 and 25. We'll see from the statement whether they think anybody should, and whether they are going to be the ones to do it.