Could the Economy Be Picking Up?

Could the Economy Be Picking Up?

Just as we were feeling a bit jaded about the economy, some promising signs boosted our spirits. (But caution! Notice we said "some.")

First, President Obama called on Monday to temporarily extend the Bush-era tax cuts for people making less than $250,000. While it hasn't passed yet, extending tax cuts for 98% of Americans could bring relief. Then, on Thursday, it was reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was at its lowest point in four years.

But this was no unalloyed sign that things are looking up: The drop was primarily due to seasonal factors. In fact, employers are hiring more ... temps--but not full-time workers. Companies have been burned enough by the stuttering economy that they don't want to commit to full-time workers.

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But the housing market showed signs of having turned a corner. "We finally saw some rising home prices," was the direct quote from S&P's David Blitzer as he reported the first monthly increase in house-price data after seven months of declines.

And finally, regulators on Tuesday approved new rules aimed at preventing yet another financial crisis. Regulators will now have more control over the $700 trillion derivatives industry, one of the main culprits of the last crisis.

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