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Good today, bad tomorrow - Odessa American: Ken Brodnax

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Good today, bad tomorrow

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Posted: Friday, October 23, 2009 12:00 am

Trying to keep up with financial trends is enough to drive a person batty. Maybe it’s a matter of too much information. Or perhaps it has to do with superficial reporting on the part of those covering economic trends.

   One day, the nation’s economy is racing down the road to recovery. The next day, the weak dollar or rising oil prices (or falling oil prices, for that matter) are hindering the revival.

   So which figures should you watch and which should you ignore.

   Alas, that’s the problem. It’s tough to ignore the jobless stats when the numbers are announced. Obviously, if you’ve got a lot of folks looking for jobs, it ain’t good.

   Then you have stuff like new housing starts (haven’t been a lot of those lately) and all sorts of industrial indexes that don’t mean a thing to the average American.

   And then you have the indicators that are quite confusing. For instance, an increase in gasoline prices usually would be considered good for this area. But, at the same time, such a hike can touch off a fall in the stock markets. Plus, you have to assess the personal effect as well. If pump prices go up, your wallet takes a hit. If they fall, the net result could be more jobs lost in the Permian Basin. But you’re actually saving a few bucks each tankful. That’s called a mixed blessing.

   Anyway, it might be time to go out and find some new indicators to measure the economy.

   For example, we could start monitoring the amount of booze and beer being sold in the United States. A rise in demand might signal bad times because people are drowning their sorrows. Or it could mean an upturn because consumers have the extra bucks to do a little partying and celebrating.

   Oh well, forget that one. It could be even more confusing than some of the figures we’re already using. Plus, after a few beers, the ability to grasp and decipher such data usually goes away.

   So what about common sense?

   During the worst of the recession or whatever you choose to call it, one of the big worries was the amount of money available to be borrowed for new projects.

   In fact, a lot of ambitious construction efforts around the nation were put on hold when the economy cratered last year.

   But developers of a 37-story hotel and condo complex in downtown Austin recently announced that it had acquired financing to finish the construction after an eight-month search. If that is happening elsewhere, the statistics, if compiled in an orderly and accurate manner, might be a good indicator. How many projects are on track and how many are still abandoned?

   Or it could be as grassroots as having people check day laborer gathering spots in selected cities across the country to see how many are on hand. If big numbers are there, it’s probably not good.

   Actually, finding new indicators might be too much of a reach. It’s pretty much a reach with just the things we’re already measuring, as our on-again, off-again recession seems to show.

Odessa, TX

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