We had been hearing talk of an economy that was picking up steam and a recovery that was, at last, on track. Now, it appears that recovery has stalled. Or worse. Bloomberg reports that in last year's fourth quarter:

Gross domestic product, the volume of all goods and services produced, dropped at a 0.1 percent annual rate, weaker than any economist forecast in a Bloomberg survey and the worst performance since the second quarter of 2009, when the world’s largest economy was still in the recession, Commerce Department figures showed today …

It is, of course, just one number. And a backward looking one, at that. And, of course, there will be some arguing that it isn't all that bad and that the number would have been fine or okay, anyway, had in not been for a decline in government spending. To which, the counter-argument is that government spending in the 4th quarter of 2012 was $31 billion more than in the 4th quarter of 2011.

What seems undeniable is that, for all the expert analysis, the decline was, as always ... unexpected.

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