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Latest Economic News Sparks Optimism In U.S.


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Maybe it's not so bad. That seemed to be the read of investors when they saw today's economic numbers. Better than expected news about unemployment stoked some optimism that the U. S. will avoid a double-dip recession. And stock market recovered a bit from yesterday's drop.

But the news is not as good in Europe, as NPR's Chris Arnold reports

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Economists and investors these days are hanging on every bit of new data, looking for signs that the U. S. economic recovery is managing to keep limping ahead. And this morning, the Labor Department said the number of people filing for unemployment fell. That means that jobless claims are at their lowest level in seven months.

DR. NARIMAN BEHRAVESH: This is just one more piece of good news suggesting we will see jobs growth going forward.

ARNOLD: Nariman Behravesh is chief economist at IHS Global Insight. He says on top of the unemployment data, new numbers on the trade deficit also showed improvement. So, taken together...

BEHRAVESH: They confirm the general view that the U. S. economy, while growing slowly, is not in a recession and probably not even close to a recession at this point.

ARNOLD: And what's the danger, though, that if Europe keeps deteriorating, that that's going to pull us back down?

BEHRAVESH: A mild recession in Europe probably won't hurt us very much. But if there's a true financial meltdown in Europe - call it Europe's Lehman moment, referring, of course, to Lehman Brothers collapse three years ago - if Europe goes through something like that, then it would drag us back down into a recession.

ARNOLD: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke talked about this at a town hall meeting in Texas today. He explained how if countries such as Greece can't pay their debts, that could put tremendous pressure on European banks

DR. BEN BERNANKE: The banks would lose all their money on their balance sheets. And that, in turn, could create a huge amount of financial stress not only in Europe but in the world as a whole. So it's a difficult situation.

ARNOLD: But barring a meltdown, Nariman Behravesh says he's forecasting at least sluggish growth with steady but slow job gains. He thinks the unemployment rate even a year from now will still be up at around 8 or 8.5 percent.

Chris Arnold, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996 and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.
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