Thursday, August 19, 2004

 

Are we really in an economic recovery?


Economic reports released today had the financial community hoping for answers to the question of whether the American economy is actually in a recovery. The data was as ambiguous as the answer: we don't really know.

Oil prices are one of the biggest questions, impacting consumer prices, consumer spending, treasury markets and the stock market. Yesterday's news that defiant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr would lay down arms and participate in Iraq's political process turned to confusion today. Al-Sadr's mosque has turned into a fortress and his supporters have launched attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi security personnel.

Military instability in the region, along with a host of other factors, have driven oil prices to daily record highs. Today is no exception, with oil hitting $47.96 per barrel as an intraday high. The big concern is these prices have not been reflected at American gas pumps yet. When that happens, I believe we will see the highest gas prices in the history of our country.

Meanwhile, the Fed's Philadelphia manufacturing survey mirrored lower results published on Monday in another region. The results of the survey indicate demand for products has declined, which spells trouble for America's consumer driven economy.

Additionally, weekly unemployment jobless claims came out a bit lower for the third straight week. 331,000 new claims were logged last week, down 3000 from the previous week.

Today's data caused the stock market to decline sharply, despite a great debut from Google on the NASDAQ. The only silver lining to the American economic cloud is the bond market and housing. Mortgage rates are holding steady, houses are selling and home values are still increasing.

Will the American economy make a comeback as strong as Paul Hamm did in his quest for gymnastic all-around gold? Is unemployment simply a devastating vault landing in the apparatus of economic reports? We'll find out.

This report brought to you by Bryman College.

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