Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. People are skeptical about the U.S. economy, according to results of a poll by the Pew Research Center.
64 percent of the 15-hundred respondents said economic conditions are only fair to poor. Their worriers are over the high cost of gasoline, home heating fuel and health care.
Despite consumer uncertainty about the economy, the numbers point to an upturn.
*The Index of Leading Indicators rose one-tenth of one percent last month. It is the third consecutive monthly gain, suggesting an economy that is likely to expand moderately in the near-term.
* Year-end totals of both new and existing home sales set record highs for a fifth straight year in 2005.
*The Gross Domestic Product, which reflects the growth rate of total economic output, was up just 1.1% in the fourth quarter -- the slowest pace in three years. *And while the non-partisan Congressional Budge Office forecasts a $337 (B) billion dollar deficit for the current budget year, the estimate is lower than the $400 billion dollar projection by the White House.
While the economy may be looking up, the same can't be said for the beef export business. Following last week's failure to stop prohibited material from being sent in a shipment of veal to Japan, the U.S. government is working hard this week to regain the confidence of its Asian trading partners.
Dr. Ron DeHaven, USDA: "I think the response has been very aggressive, very quick. It truly is an unfortunate situation and I think the Secretary is taking that stance that we're going to do every thing we can to correct it as quickly as we can, and provide the necessary assurances."
The U.S. is responding quickly to Japan's reinstated ban on American beef following the discovery of spinal cord in a shipment of U.S. beef last week. USDA already is starting to re-educate meat inspectors on specific requirements demanded by certain countries importing U.S. beef. In addition, more inspectors will be sent to every plant approved to export beef. At least two will have to review every shipment of U.S. beef slated for Japan.
As Japan insists on guarantees from the U.S. to ensure the beef rules won't be violated again, the Asian country on Tuesday reported the discovery of its 22nd case of BSE within its own borders. The U.S. has had two. Japan is giving no word on a possible date for resumption of U.S. beef imports.
Dr. Ron DeHaven, USDA: "I think there's a lot of speculation now as to how long the restrictions might continue and I don't want to add fuel to that fire."
Despite Japan's suspension of U.S. beef imports, Taiwan and South Korea plan to resume importing American beef on a limited basis. Both countries are limiting the imports to boneless meat only from calves under 30 months old.