Economic tidings

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Virtually every source of news these days, print or electronic, is heavy on economic news, and most of it is bad.

One reason: When prosperity -- measured in rising wages, strong sales, increased production, rising stock markets, more construction -- extends over several years, it is easy to be lulled into the notion of unending boom times. But no economy has ever sustained a boom for more than a few years. Eventually, corrections take place. And when the "boom" turns out to be based on weak economic practices, such as the mortgage fiasco of recent years, it soon turns to "bust."

Meanwhile, there has been some good news. Oil prices have slumped a bit. Gasoline pump prices have sagged. Some major economic indicators such as home sales are still down, but not by as much as had been forecast. While stock indexes are low, there are signs of renewed investor confidence. Consumers spent more in July than in June, which had the worst slump in 28 years.

Even though daily news reports underscore the sham of subprime mortgages, hardly any attention is given to the millions of homeowners who are making their payments on time every month, or to the thousands of home buyers who are still able to find decent mortgages -- as long as they have a decent credit history and sufficient income.

Just as the air eventually goes out of booms, the economy will eventually catch its breath. Much of the turnaround will depend on the confidence of consumers and investors. To do that, we need to pay attention to all the economic news, not just the doom and gloom.

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