AgentIndustry News

The illusion of economic stability

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The Fed has succeeded in holding down Treasury and mortgage rates, but that is the only clear accomplishment by government so far this year. A grand debate began last week between those who see Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's "green shoots" and those who don't. The Fed's Beige Book summary described a "moderation in the pace of decline ... some sectors stabilizing at a low level." The "shooters" pointed to better-than-expected bank earnings, slightly improved consumer confidence, a possible turn in unemployment claims, and flattening Institute for Supply Management surveys. The no-bottom counter-data: The small-business National Federation of Independent Business survey sunk to the second-worst level in its 35-year history (not by coincidence -- the Q2 '80 worst was the only credit crunch comparable to this in modern times). Industrial production fell 1.5 percent in March, and capacity in use dropped to 69.3 percent, the lowest measur...