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US economy shows buoyancy, decline at the same time

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August was a month when the troubled American economy appeared to be moving in opposite directions, both up and down.

On the plus side, the stock and bond markets soared - first in response to lower interest rates, then on a momentum of their own.

Interest rates tumbled - the prime to 13.5 percent, other key rates even lower.

The index of leading economic indicators, measuring the probable course of the future, climbed for the fourth month in a row.

A bit of strength was reflected in permits for future home construction and in advance factory orders. Inventories in merchants' shelves generally were lean , forecasting stronger demand for goods in the months ahead.

Taken in isolation, these conditions would indicate that the recession which began in the summmer of 1981 has bottomed out, and that the groundwork for recovery has been laid.

Some officials of the Reagan administration in fact claim that recovery is under way. But look at the other side of the coin:

Unemployment in August was 9.8 of the labor force - no higher that in July, but no better, either. This is still the highest mark recorded since 1941.

Business bankrupties, according to Dun and Bradstreet, are running at the highest level since 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression. The bankruptcy rate has risen year by year since 1979, and still is climbing.

Net incomes of American farmers, according to a government study, has slumped to the lowest point since 1933. Sales of cars and new single-family houses are dismal. Retail sales remain sluggish. Cautious consumers are not triggering an early recovery, despite fresh purchasing power pumped into the economy by tax cuts and higher social security benefits.

The fiscal 1983 budget deficit, said the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is likely to total $155 billion after spending cuts already made and the $98.5 billion tax increase signed by President Reagan.


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