Deflating Expectations

n a Reuters poll out this week, most economists say they are expecting more robust inflation this year, to the tune of 2 percent. The poll accurately reflects the plethora of emails from research firms in my inbox—a slowly building chorus predicting rising prices along with an uptick in overall economic activity.

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The Bright Side of Falling Off the Fiscal Cliff

As 2012 sputters to a close, it wraps up with a yawning gap between widespread economic pessimism and the actual state of economic affairs. Though consumer sentiment rebounded in the fall, it fell in December, amid relentless coverage of the impending fiscal cliff. Holiday spending was muted. Businesses, meanwhile, cite the unresolved negotiations in Washington as evidence of continued uncertainty and many have put new spending, hiring, or investment on hold. The media counts the days (and on some cable news channels, the minutes and the seconds) till we descend the fiscal cliff, adding to the general agitation.

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The Bipolar Economy: If Consumers Are Happy, Why Is Business So Miserable?

A strange inversion has happened in the past few months: Consumers have gone from being deeply pessimistic about the future to slightly optimistic at the same time that companies have moved from being slightly positive to increasingly negative. That discrepancy is intriguing, and raises the question: Which view will determine the course of the near future? Will the buoyed spirits of people carry the day, or will corporate glumness pull us down?

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Concern About Overindebted Americans Is Overblown

It's become a mantra: American consumers have been living beyond their means, borrowing promiscuously, and now the bill is coming due. Having nearly drowned in a sea of debt, U.S. consumers must now repair their finances, spend more prudently and recognize the wisdom of past generations: spend only what you earn. But while endlessly repeated by financial gurus, politicians and the media, the belief that American consumers as a whole have been living beyond their means is a myth. Wall Street was massively overextended, but on average, consumers are not.

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Americans Don't Spend Beyond Their Means

It's become a mantra: American consumers have been living beyond their means, using their homes as piggy banks, borrowing promiscuously, and now the bill is coming due. Having nearly drowned in a sea of debt, U.S. consumers must now repair their personal finances, spend more prudently and recognize the wisdom of past generations: spend only what you earn and what you have.

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