EDITORIAL: Thumbs up and down

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

THUMBS UP: Economic indicators

It seems that for every “thumbs up” we give the economy, there’s an accompanying “thumbs down” to follow closely on its heels. No doubt we’re still in the doldrums, and the indicators being trotted out by all manner of observers are about as conclusive (meaning “inconclusive”) as they’ve ever been.

Yes, some of our taxes are going up, Congress is dysfunctional as ever and there’s still a mess in the European economy, but in the last few weeks, numbers associated with employment, manufacturing and retail sales have all trended positively. The stock market is flying high and even home prices — finally — are showing signs of increase and strength.

A recent survey of economists suggested that most strongly believe our nation’s gross domestic product will increase in the first quarter from previous estimates. Increases in GDP are among the most strongly correlated signs of economic health.

Like spring, better economic news can’t come soon enough. Looking down the road, the next major potential exit for the economy will come during budget fights in Washington. The confluence of cold and warm fronts in spring can produce violent storms, and the environment in our nation’s capital is ripe for messy weather in the coming months — economically and politically speaking, of course. Maybe the economic indicators we’re seeing are hinting of a very pleasant summer.

THUMBS DOWN: Stupid weather rat

We don’t remember (or little care) whether the official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted an early spring back in February, which now seems ages ago. We think he did, but we’ve been too busy putting more logs on the fire and fretting over undone yard work to look it up. The “misery index” of our prolonged winter makes us wonder if spring will ever arrive.

It officially arrived this past week — meteorogically, at least. But with clouds, plenty of chances for rain, lows near the freezing mark and highs barely out of the lower 50s this week, it still feels like February. Temperatures are 10 to 15 degrees below normal and Saturday’s high was in the neighborhood of 30 degrees colder than the same date last year.

We shouldn’t complain. Severe weather in the Gulf Coast states and heavy snows in the Midwest make us thankful for the weather we’re not having. The weather we’d like to have will be here soon enough. We’re sure April will bring its share of sun and warmth, and by then, Groundhog Day — and a winter with what seemed like an extra February — will be far in our rear view mirror.