While recent statistics have shown strength in the U.S. economy, near-record-low interest rates and declining commodity prices may be a sign that things aren't as great as they appear, says New York Times columnist Neil Irwin
"Perhaps the situation is gloomier than the conventional economic measures are telling us," he writes. "It could be that this is a bit like the second half of 2007, when market measures pointed to a downturn, but a recession didn’t begin until December."
Falling oil prices may indicate a drop in industrial demand, Irwin says. And "perhaps the bond market knows something that just hasn’t shown up in the official economic statistics yet." The 10-year Treasury yielded 2.32 percent Friday, down from 3.04 percent Dec. 31, 2013.
Irwin notes that Macroeconomic Advisers has lowered its forecast of fourth-quarter economic growth to 2.2 percent from 3 percent. GDP expanded at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter.
"If economic data remain strong over the next couple of months, it may be safe to toss out this possibility," Irwin writes. "But until then, the darkest timeline has to be considered, given the mixed messages that the global markets are sending."
Meanwhile, average Americans' confidence in the economy is rising, but not to high levels, according to Gallup. Its economic confidence index climbed to negative 6 for the week ended Nov. 16, its highest level since June 2013 and up from negative 8 a week earlier.
But a negative number indicates Americans are more likely to view the economy negatively than positively. Only 24 percent of Americans see the economy as "excellent" or "good," compared to 31 percent who see it as poor.
A total of 46 percent of Americans say the economy is improving, while 50 percent say it's getting worse.
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