If Obama's improving poll numbers are a reflection of where people think the economy is headed, then Tuesday morning's batch of indicators might keep the president's bounce going right up until next week's State of the Union address.
- Jobless claims fell sharply.
- Existing home sales jumped more than expected.
- The closely watched survey of manufacturing conditions released every month by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank indicated continued industrial growth.
- The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators rose by 1 percent in December, compared to November.
The numbers don't scream rapid growth. Slow and steady is still the watchword, and there are clear warning signs. In the housing sector, as Bloomberg points out, while existing home sales surged, "the median price dropped 1 percent from a year earlier, and the share of sales represented by foreclosures climbed." That trend will likely continue.
But overall, the news is encouraging. Last week's surge in new jobless claims stirred fears that the recent improvement in labor conditions was ripe for another backslide, even though history indicates that there is almost always a big bump up right after the holidays. Today's numbers continue the steady drop in the four-week moving average of new claims, which now rests at 411,750. The tale told by the shape of the four-week average graph is getting prettier and prettier as 2011 advances.