Positive economic trends spotted


ChartThe road ahead for the economy is still full of potholes, and even bigger cliff-sized vacuums, but a number of trends could be pointing toward a return to a more robust US business climate.

The report comes from the Washington Post, which said the signs pointed to the possibility that the economy was gaining traction.

Among the positive signs:

* Better-than-expected hiring numbers in the latest report on employment during looking at numbers for July.

* Related to that was another positive development, an accelerating downward trend in the number of new applications for unemployment insurance.

* Improvements in the housing market, including both price increases for existing structures and increase in the amount of new construction.

* A decrease in the trade deficit, built both on a reduction of the amount spent on imports and an increase in the amount earned from exports.

However, there are many problems – including a large number of consumers who are living in houses now worth less than what is still owed on them. And two big question marks, one domestic and one international, hang over the economic equation.

* The situation in Europe is tenuous, and an economic catastrophe there will naturally cause repercussions here.

* The so-called “fiscal cliff” awaits the US at the beginning of 2013, when a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts related to the debt ceiling agreement of 2011 are scheduled to kick in barring congressional intervention – something it has been unable to do.