Hello, I'm Mark Person. Consumer prices fell last month for the first time in more than a year, giving fiscal policymakers latitude to hold interest rates at all-time lows.
Thanks largely to declining gasoline prices, the Consumer Price Index fell 0.1% in April. Stripping out the volatile food and energy sectors, so-called, core inflation was flat, and over the past 12 months, it's risen just 0.9 percent... its smallest annual increase in 44 years.
With the threat of inflation virtually benign, the Federal Reserve appears poised to keep interest rates at record-low levels well into 2011.
Those developments normally would be friendly to equity markets. But this week, concerns over economic chaos in Europe fueled a three-day, 500-point decline on the Dow which put the bellwether index in its first official "correction" in more than a year.
And in a vote with serious implications for both lenders and borrowers, the U.S. Senate this week approved a comprehensive package of the most far-reaching financial regulatory reforms since the Great Depression.
The financial overhaul and a massive health care bill passed in March could be two of the most consequential new laws in decades.
And this week, hoping to tighten America's cavernous trade deficit, the Obama administration announced new efforts to open foreign markets to increased agricultural exports.
Breaking through trade barriers is a never-ending battle. The hurdles for U.S. agricultural interests have included everything from carefully crafted verbiage to blatant challenges to existing trade rules that temporarily lock out U.S. goods.
As part of President Barrack Obama's initiative to double all U.S. exports over the next five years, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has joined forces with United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk. The pair faces the daunting task of opening more doors to the nearly $100 billion dollars in U.S. agricultural goods sold overseas each year.
Besides opening more markets, Ambassador Kirk will continue to work with foreign governments who fail to honor already established trade rules. Tactics used by other countries have included the creation of sanitary rules that appear to cast doubt on the cleanliness of U.S. goods.
Ambassador Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative: "In many cases the enforcement work that we do at the U.S. Trade Representative's Office and the WTO is all about getting our partners to behave the way we've asked them to. And whether it's poultry in the European Union, or whether it's beef in Russia or pork in China, getting them to open those markets and allowing us to have fair access can be helpful to us."
According to Vilsack, the trade picture has improved but he says more work is needed to increase the number of places in the world where American agricultural products are accepted.
Sec. Tom Vilsack, USDA: "We know that increasing exports and that means not just better bottom lines for farmers and ranchers in this country but just as importantly in this time when we are focused on jobs it helps to create jobs. A billion dollars of ag exports will increase jobs by eight to nine thousand jobs."