Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
With regime change in Iraq now a reality, the Bush administration has refocused some of its attention on domestic issues, like the economy. But winning that battle may prove as big a challenge as the military conflict.
The government's own numbers underscore the problem. The job market has gone stagnant as companies pare the workforce. Factory production fell in March to its worst showing in three months, mainly because consumer demand remains poor. And because demand is so weak, many companies find it difficult to raise producer prices, even though inflation remains in check.
Those broad economic factors put pressure on the capital-intensive farm sector. But at least there, the arrival of planting season yields new hope.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the annual rite of spring planting has begun. USDA has begun tracking planting progress of the nation's major crops, which to date have been mostly seeded in the South.
So far, 8 percent of the cotton crop is in the ground, mostly in Texas, Arizona and California.
Five percent of the nation's corn crop has been planted, although very little of that in the traditional Corn Belt.
And, 13 percent of the spring wheat crop has been seeded, primarily in Washington and Idaho. That's well ahead of the five-year average pace of planting.
While the planting report is an indication of activity in the country, the markets reacted more to news of export sales and weather concerns in a trade-shortened week.