A stalling economy

Global investors may be relieved at the political agreement negotiated over the weekend in Washington to lift the debt ceiling limit. (Hold your nose, however. In these wild times there's no guarantee the deal will get done in Congress.)

Deal or no deal, it has been a shameful time for Washington to take the debt-limit negotiations to the brink. The economy is faltering. The latest figures show that gross domestic product barely expanded in the first half of 2011, managing to eke out a mere 0.8% annual rate of growth. A figure like that used to be called a "growth recession."

The risk that the economy is stalling out is reinforced by the action in the stock and bond markets. The money management firm Aronson Johnson Ortiz puts out a table with the total return from 43 major domestic and international stock market indices. For the past month only one is up: The S&P 500 real estate investment trust index with a total return of 1.61%.

Over the past three months not a single domestic stock index is up. Here's a 3-month chart of the S&P 500, -4.76%.

Every international stock index is down, too. The total return on the EAFE index (Europe, Australasia, and Far East) -5.51%

What gained? Bonds. The one month return on the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Government Treasury-Long was 4.31% for the month and 5.84% for the three month. It's the kind of bond market return you would expect in a stalling economy.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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