Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Government and private reports released this week offered glimmers of hope for the beleaguered U.S. economy, yet the deteriorating labor market also indicates the worst recession in more than 25 years is far from over.
On one hand, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday that sales of existing homes rose by more than five percent in February, tallying their largest increase in nearly six years. New home sales also rebounded unexpectedly last month, but remain well below last year's levels.
According to the Commerce Department, orders for durable goods rose by more than 3 percent in February, ending a streak of six consecutive monthly declines.
Those developments were cheered on Wall Street where the Dow Jones Industrials wrapped up a volatile week Friday with a 5-day gain of nearly 500 points. That's up nearly 20 percent from its low point on March 9th.
But, the Labor Department reports only Nebraska was spared from a rise in unemployment last month that took its toll in 49 other states. Nationally, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits now exceeds a record 5.5 million.
Critics of U.S. immigration policy claim an influx of illegal workers from Mexico is a critical factor in America's unemployment equation. This week though, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was south of the border negotiating with Mexican officials in hopes of averting a trade war.
The drug trade-ravaged nation of Mexico enacted tariffs on 89 U.S. products this month, including many agricultural items. The trade taxes come in response to a mid-March U.S. Congressional measure preventing Mexican truckers from operating inside America's borders.
The newly imposed Mexican tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods, ranging from a 45 percent tax on grapes to lesser percentages on onions and strawberries, raise concerns that a greater trade war could develop between the North American trading partners.
The current Mexican-American commerce dispute dates back to 1994 and the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Under NAFTA requirements, the U.S. agreed to grant Mexican trucks full access to its highways by January 2000. But domestic opposition to the plan led U.S. legislators to delay a pilot program until 2007.
More than fifteen years after NAFTA was signed, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hopes to resolve the dispute amid stark drug trafficking issues surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border.
Clinton and the Obama Administration plan to negotiate a new program for Mexican truck shipments on American highways. But the tariffs on more than $2.4 billion in U.S. goods are not expected to cease prior to President Obama's mid-April visit to Mexico.