A number of economists on and off Wall Street are ringing the recession bell, as they have so many times in recent years. But the Goldilocks economy has proven to be more durable and resilient than her critics appreciate.
Goldilocks dodged two potentially recessionary bullets this week. While modest gains in retail sales and industrial production suggest temporarily slower growth for the U.S. economy, these indicators are not signaling recession. In particular, Friday’s 0.1 percent production increase — which comes to 2.4 percent at an annual rate over the past 3 months and 2.3 percent over the past 12 months — removes the recession scenario. It’s slow growth, but it’s growth nonetheless.
To get a true recession reading, the production index would have to fall for 4 to 6 months in a row. That’s not happening. Despite some monthly declines over the past half year, the production reading for January was 114.2 — exactly where it was in July and September of last year. Looking inside the January index, there was a 0.3 percent increase for consumer-goods production and a 0.4 percent rise for business equipment. Both are solid numbers.
Meanwhile, the just-released January retail sales report defied the recessionistas with a better-than-expected 0.3 percent gain. Retail sales are climbing at a 2.7 percent annual rate over the past 3 months and a 3.9 percent rate over the past year.
Trade exports also continue strong,…
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