There are tangible data suggesting that the worst of the recession could be near, is here, or perhaps has passed, and many observers are clinging to these very mixed figures and trends with mix of desperation and optimism. Some took a positive consumer demand number in an otherwise dreadful first quarter advance GDP number of negative 6.1 percent as a “green shoot” of recovery. But personal consumption declined in March. Last Thursday’s initial jobless claims report was better than expected, but what will initial claims look like after those Pontiac assembly plants and dealerships are closed, and after the Chrysler cutbacks?
The housing market continues to spew conflicting data. Yes, the supply of unsold new homes is shrinking, but there’s still a sizeable inventory of unsold existing homes. Home prices continue to decline, although the pace shows tentative signs of slowing. Low prices and tax breaks may be supporting a modest rebound in sales here and here, but rising unemployment and foreclosures seem to be dimming the nascent turnaround.