Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. A key government report this week offered the strongest evidence yet that the U.S. economy finally appears to be on the mend.
Gross domestic product -- the broadest measure of economic vitality -- grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter. That's the GDP's best showing in two years, and it broke a string of four consecutive quarterly declines.
The Dow rose nearly 200 points on the news in its best single-day advance since July, only to give all the gains back -- and then some -- on Friday.
Earlier in the week the government announced orders to factories for durable goods -- items expected to last at least three years -- rose 1 percent in September.
But other data released this week were less upbeat. The Commerce Department reported sales of new homes fell 3.6 percent in September marking their first decline since March.
And the Conference Board announced its Consumer Confidence Index fell to a 26-year low in October, prompting some analysts to speculate that an already gloomy holiday shopping forecast could worsen.
Midwestern farmers also are concerned about the forecast, and some are beginning to wonder if they'll be finished harvesting by the holidays.
Inclement weather continued to play with the emotions of farmers this week, as rain prevented producers from getting into the field. Clear skies gave way to rain as a large band of storms stretched over the Midwest from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Based on current trends officials at some USDA field offices are predicting harvest in low-lying areas will be delayed well into November.
According to USDA statistics, poor weather conditions have pushed the corn harvest back by three weeks. Nationally, farmers have only been able to bring in about 20 percent of the crop -- three percentage points ahead of last year but 65 percent behind the average five-year pace. Officials at the Nebraska field office are calling the corn harvest of 2009 the slowest since 1982. Despite the inclement weather, surveys still indicate 69 percent of the crop is in good-to-excellent condition.
Mother Nature also has been less than kind to soybean farmers. With equipment sidelined due to wet fields, only about 50 percent of the work has been completed when compared to the five-year average. Normally, 80 percent of the crop would be in by now but weather has delayed the harvest by nearly a month. Even so, 65 percent of the crop remains in good-to-excellent condition.
In its latest production estimates, USDA predicted the corn harvest would be the second highest on record at 13 billion bushels while soybeans were pegged to hit an all-time high of nearly 3.3 billion bushels. What effect the weather will have on those numbers may well be revealed in two weeks when the next production estimates are delivered.