Call off Depression 2.0.
While still far from health, the U.S. economy is showing some encouraging signs of life as consumers tiptoe back to the shopping mall, home builders pick up their hammers, and manufacturers clear out inventory.
That suggests the soon-to-be-completed first quarter will be as bad as it gets, and apocalyptic fears of another lengthy, painful Great Depression look unwarranted.
But it does not mean the recession is over.
A return to growth is still several months away, and it will probably be far longer before the economy is strong enough to create jobs. That means unemployment will continue to rise, and more people will fall behind on bill payments, keeping the pressure on banks at the epicenter of the financial crisis.
“I don’t think that this is the beginning of a recovery. It’s the beginning of a much slower pace of decline,” said Ethan Harris, an economist with Barclays [BCS 5.38 0.07 (+1.32%) ] in New York. “You’ve got to walk before you run.”
A recent round of less-dire economic data has raised hopes that the economy is at least beginning to crawl, if not walk.
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