Economics is known, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as the dismal science. When economists start seeing the glass as half-full, though, you can rest assured that the overall situation of the country must really be improving. Many economists believe that hindsight will show that the recession has ended. However, the recession started in December 2007 when things still felt like they could improve or worsen, depending on a given commentator’s data set. It will be the same with the start of the recovery. As many as several quarters will likely be needed for the recovery to become palpable.David Hale, a noted economist based in Chicago, recently laid out the factors he felt indicate that the U.S. economy is recovering, albeit slowly. Ben Bernanke was reappointed as Chairman of the Fed and Wall Street approved. The Cash for Clunkers program drove auto sales from their June annualized rate of 8.7 million cars to a July rate of 11.2 million and on to 14 million in August.

Mr. Hale went on to highlight positive housing news. July new home sales recovered to 433,000 from 332,000 in March, the first time new home sales have increased for four consecutive months since June 2004. This helped pare the inventory of unsold new homes from 12.4 months of sales in January to 7.5 months today. This decrease in excess homes, which has been aided by the first time home buyer tax credit, is extremely positive for the industry. The housing market continues to face a number of challenges, including the fact that the percentage of troubled loans that return to current status is at a record low. I believe these statistics, though, are somewhat misleading after a period of intense speculation. Once their loans are underwater, such speculators lack the normal incentives that urge a family behind on their mortgage to get current again.

Another factor that should not be ignored concerns the stimulus package. I don’t mean the old news that a huge stimulus package has been passed. I’m referring to the newer news that not much of the money has been spent. A recent tally showed that only $53 billion of the $479 billion authorized in direct spending had been spent. Since so much of this money will be spent on housing projects and other buildings, it will contribute strongly to the recovery of the door and window industry when it makes it through appropriations. All of this spending will beget still more spending by individuals and businesses. Overall, things are starting not to look quite so dismal.

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