November was a good month for retailers as consumers opened their pocketbooks at the beginning of the holiday season. Retail sales were double the amount economists had expected.
The Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation based on goods and services purchased by households, had its second highest advance in more than two years.
These numbers arrived on the heels of a Federal Reserve Board meeting held this week. As expected, the prime interest rate on money lent to banks was cut by one-quarter percent.
Initially, Wall Street responded negatively to the announcement. Later news of a worldwide effort to push more cash into the global banking system helped gain back much of the loss but by weeks end the Dow closed down 300 points.
As attempts are made to right the nation's economy the first hurdle in the selection process for a new leader of the United States is less than three weeks away. The contenders for President met this week in Iowa for their last debate before the first in the nation caucuses. A finish in the top three in Iowa is generally considered a sign that you have the green light to go on. Here's a sample of comments on trade and agricultural policy from both Republican and Democratic challengers.
Rudy Guiliani, R – New York: "America should think about free trade, global economy as something we want to embrace. This is what we've always wanted. America's a country of entrepreneurs and dreamers and creators, and what we should be thinking about is how much can we sell to these people."
Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Arkansas: "The big argument against having alternative energy is there's no market for it. Well, let the government be a marketplace, and we'll create the kind of demand that lowers the price rather than raises the price."
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado: "What is the right amount of mandate to impose on the rest of the country? And you know what? It never works out right. Let the market -- I trust the market more than I do the government."
Gov. Mitt Romney, R – Massachusetts: "But we call it global warming, not America warming. so let's not put a burden on us alone and have the rest of the world skate by. It's a global effort, but our independence is something we can do unilaterally."
Sen. Barack Obama, D – Illinois: "I went to Detroit in front of the automakers and said they had to change their ways. I have to say the room was quiet and nobody clapped, but that's okay."
Sen. Joe Biden, D – Delaware: "You ride across this magnificent state and you see so much open land and so few farmers. It's kind of fascinating. You know, you'd think you'd see a farmhouse, you know, every 800 acres or so. But this is all about how do you preserve family farmers? There's only 550,000 of them left."
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D – New York: "On conservation, on environmental stewardship, on subsidy limits. When I'm president we're going to finally make these changes because I believe that if we don't, we're going to see increasingly our family farmers as an endangered species."
Sen. Chris Dodd, D – Connecticut: "So moving in a direction here that encourages the diversity of farming in this state, I think, makes a great deal of sense. That encourages conservation and alternative uses are ones that all of us ought to support. Not only iowans but across the entire country."