You can listen to the guys who predict doom for our economy. You can listen to those who predict world recession. Or you can look at some facts. When you do, you might come to more positive conclusions.
I am not saying all is rosy. However, some of these facts look pretty encouraging.
Our Gross Domestic Product rose 3.2 percent last quarter. Our exports were particularly strong. Those are good figures. Those who predicted we would be knee-deep in recession by now have red faces.
The number of people filing for unemployment benefits has declined for a few weeks. Another encouraging sign.
The median family income is gradually moving up, after it was stalled. The average family is gaining more disposable income gradually. Good signs.
We should see inflation slow down. That will be welcome by most Americans. We have already seen gasoline prices drop. World oil prices have fallen about 40 percent. Heating oil prices are slipping. Almost all consumers will be happy with this.
Meanwhile the companies that make and ship our products will welcome the lower energy prices too.
Oil is not the only commodity whose price has fallen. The price of wheat has fallen. So has corn’s. And soybeans’ price. And cotton’s. And cocoa’s. (Think candy bars.) And coffee’s. And prices on a range of the metals that go into our various products.
In other words, the prices of things that caused inflation to go up are now going down.
House prices are down, as you know. For sellers, of course, this is bad news. But for buyers and renters it is good news. These prices will likely stay low for a while. This is because we have millions of unsold houses on the market. Many of them are new and unoccupied.
Here is another encouraging trend. Our dollar is strengthening against many currencies. Yes, it will make our exports more expensive. But it will also make many or most of our imports less expensive.
I have not seen the figures, but we will be seeing foreign money come into the U.S. To be invested in our stocks and bonds. Foreigners will shift money here because our economy looks to be strengthening. Unlike European and other economies. Many will invest in our stocks. They figure the improving economy will boost profits in various companies. So they are buying stocks of those companies now.
They also figure if our economy expands our Fed will have to raise interest rates. Rising interest rates help the dollar further. For foreigners it is nice to have money in the U.S. when the dollar is strengthening.
Now most Americans don’t pounce on their computer to dig out the day’s commodity prices. Most do not know the price of nickel today. Nor do they care if it fell 5 percent in a day.
Most Americans cannot tell you if our GDP or our dollar is up or down. In fact, most Americans are not aware of the figures contained in this article. Millions of them live paycheck to paycheck.
Many have grown disgruntled. Not because those figures moved against them. They have been unhappy because they have run out of money. The gas price increase took some. Higher food and clothing and everything prices took their money. At the end of the week or month they knew they had less than they had at the end of the week or month a year ago.
Between incomes edging up and inflation edging down and gas prices declining, they ought to feel a little more comfortable in months ahead. That process has already begun. The last two readings on consumer confidence about the future were higher.
If you feel inclined to be optimistic, you will find me at the head of the parade.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.
For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.