Economy: Are things getting better, or is it just the eggnog?
The holidays always bring a degree of joy to retailers, but this year's surge has been particularly strong. Residential construction peaked in November, climbing to its highest level since April 2010. Meanwhile, new applications for unemployment benefits have declined steadily for four weeks, hitting the lowest level since April 2008 -- before Lehman Bros. collapsed, the credit markets froze and the recession turned serious.
It's easy to pluck good numbers out of the sea of economic data even in not-so-good times. Still, consumers seem to sense that the U.S. economy is getting some of its mojo back. The latest Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers showed the fourth straight monthly improvement in consumer confidence. That index, which plummeted earlier this year, was back near its 2010 level, although it remained low by historical standards.
So what about you? How sanguine are you about the coming year, two days before Christmas? Take our woefully unscientific poll, leave a comment, or both!
-- Jon Healey
Photo: Shoppers in San Francisco on Thursday. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg