There was a slew of good economic news this morning, starting with reports that state and local pensions gained more than 12 percent in fiscal year 2013, driven by a strong US stock market. This isn’t going to be the new normal; Fed policy has pushed stocks up to record levels. But for now both public pensions and peoples’ 401(k) retirement funds are feeling the relief. This isn’t going to bail out underfunded systems, and it won’t rescue individuals who aren’t saving enough, but it’s always easier to make progress when the markets are working your way.Household finances are “in their best shape in decades,” as bank card delinquincies fell to their lowest level since 1990 and household net worth hit a record high this year. It looks like households have repaired their finances since the recession, and US consumers now have their debt to asset ratio in better shape. With solid credit, it’s likely that consumer demand can play a larger role in the next stage of the economic recovery. There was good news on the jobs front, as well: the ratio of job seekers to open positions fell to its lowest level in four years, a “positive sign for wages and the broader economy.”The vital service sector is also picking up steam, expanding in July at its fastest rate since March and up sharply from last month’s three-year low. And as America’s economy continues to strengthen domestically, the trade deficit has fallen to a 40-month low. One of the biggest drivers of this welcome change is a decrease in oil imports, thanks in no small part to shale.There are still plenty of stubborn problems, of course. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans remain wary about their prospects, significantly less confident in the US economy now than they were in June. The recovery has a ways to go before millennials and minorities start seeing significant improvements on the jobs front. Too much of the growth we’re seeing is in part-time work, and having three workers for every open job is not the proportion we really need. But that being said, there are some very good things are happening out there.
Excellent News, Smithers