Economic indicators are good…and bad

Jeff Horwich Aug 3, 2011

Economic indicators are good…and bad

Jeff Horwich Aug 3, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: And this may have been the day to take a deep economic breath. Wall Street broke its losing streak. There were some glimmers of good news in an otherwise gloomy week. Maybe even some hope for the job market and beleaguered consumers.

Starting us off with a couple of reasons to lift our chins, here’s Marketplace’s Jeff Horwich.

Jeff Horwich: First, let’s just revel a moment in the fact the economy did not implode. Government bills are getting paid, looks like we get to keep our top-notch credit rating for now. Our political system is not completely dysfunctional — c’mon, that’s great!

On top of that, check out Mastercard — profits up 33 percent. That doesn’t happen unless consumers are spending.

Eric Bleeker: There’s a lot of reasons to be really excited.

Look at Eric Bleeker, watching earnings season at investing website The Motley Fool: He’s not sad.

Bleeker: Right now about 75 percent of companies have reported, and we’re on pace to have record earnings. You know, that beats 2007, when the earnings were all phony banking profits.

Bleeker says America’s tech companies, especially, are kicking butt. The auto industry is also feeling wind in its hair: July sales beat expectations. Speaking of beating expectations, payroll company ADP says we added more jobs last month than economists saw coming. Take that, doom and gloom.

I’m Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

Ryssdal: Yeah, but it’s not all good news. In fact, there were some troubling signs today on layoffs and economic growth. With that, here’s Marketplace’s Jeff Horwich.

Horwich: Yeah, I’m back. Because, you know what? We just can’t let you be happy. Take that ADP jobs report: “better than expected” does not make it “good.” Job growth slowed down. Another report says companies actually announced the most layoffs in 16 months.

How about consumers, using those Mastercards? Well here’s Doug Roberts of Channel Capital Research.

Doug Roberts: Since people are starting to have financial problems, they’re using credit cards more, but really just as a way to basically pay off bills.

And about that soaring tech sector: Roberts says it’s soaring partly at the expense of jobs.

Roberts: Companies are looking for tech-based solutions to reduce costs and increase productivity.

And profits for Detroit? Not sure I even want to hear this.

Roberts: The auto industry has been able to basically for the first time renegotiate, or get some leeway, from a lot of the unions.

Even our debt ceiling stability feels less satisfying when you consider the cost of getting there. An estimate out today says the economic activity put on hold the last two weeks could set back growth as much as disruptions from the Japanese tsunami.

I’m Jeff Horwich — again — for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.