This was supposed to be a slow week for economic indicators. Then came a report from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), documenting a precipitous drop in the strength of the United Service service sector in January. Investors instantaneously ran for cover -- at 12:25 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 248 points and economy-watchers were verging on the apocalyptic. (UPDATE: the Dow closed down 370 points.)
Wall Street Journal: "[The ISM data] has recession written all over it. It's not that it's weak. It's a complete collapse in the number, one of the lowest readings this statistic has ever had," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management.
Bloomberg: "This is a stunning fall," said Michael Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Securities America Inc. in New York. "If accurate, it's dire news on the economy."
Calculated Risk: "It couldn't be much worse."
Why such a big deal? Well, for one thing the service sector is only responsible for 90 percent of the American economy. As if Super Tuesday needed help in getting any more exciting! But more importantly, what does this news mean for Americans who have yet to vote? How the World Works polled the candidates:
Ron Paul: "If elected, I will return the United States to the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve, and put an end to the boom-bust business cycle."
Mike Huckabee: "If elected, Jesus will be so delighted that all true-believing Americans will immediately be Raptured. Only the heathen will suffer from an economic downturn."
Mitt Romney: "If elected, I will redefine recessions as a good thing. If voters can believe that a liberal pro-choice Massachusetts governor can transform himself into a pro-life social conservative, they can believe anything."
John McCain: "If elected, I will order the immediate bombing of Wall Street. Greedy people should be obliterated from the face of the earth."
Hillary Clinton: "If elected, I will have the experience necessary to fix the ailing economy on Day One. I will also have a Democratic majority, so I will be able to do whatever I want."
Barack Obama: "If elected, the change wrought in the fundamental physical structure of the universe by my occupation of the White House will be so transformative and redemptive that the lion shall lay down with the lamb, Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken will unite in holy same sex matrimony, and the American people will defeat the negativity of recession by joining together and singing, in one voice, "Yes we can." Also: Oprah will write lots of checks to anybody who needs help making the rent."