domingo, março 15, 2009

Has the Economy Hit Bottom Yet?

Published: March 14, 2009

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

Still, we have to ask: was that the bottom we just hit?

After months of punishing economic news, the gloom seemed to lift last week if only for a moment. The stock market shot up 12 percent in four days. Two of the nation’s biggest banks said they had returned to profitability.

General Motors said it wouldn’t need another $2 billion in government help this month. And retail sales were better than expected.

Then again, perhaps that’s what passes for good news these days.

The market is still down by more than 50 percent since its high 17 months ago. Yes, the banks made money, but for just two months, and never mind the billions of bad assets that remain on their books.

G.M. will still, in all likelihood, need billions in taxpayer help down the road and there’s no guarantee it will survive. And those retail sales numbers? They were still bad, just not as bad as analysts were expecting.

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