Like wayward mariners lost in a pea-soup fog, uncertain investors are keeping a sharp ear out for the bells and whistles that will indicate the next way forward for the American economy.
Every available clue is meaningful under the circumstances. Off-cycle earnings reports from bellwether industrial companies Joy Global
On the surface, Schnitzer's earnings results from its fiscal third quarter portray a bellwether riding a wave of recovery. Consolidated revenue surged 84% from prior-year levels. At $704 million, in fact, this top-line result marks a whopping 25% sequential increase over a second quarter that saw competitor AK Steel
I would like nothing more than to agree, but as a doggedly truth-seeking Fool, I continue to call the shots as I see them. Incredibly, now 17 months after the $787 billion stimulus package took shape, Schnitzer Steel indicates that discernable impacts from that program remain elusive. While presenting an outlook for weaker fourth-quarter results from its steel segment, the company states: "The business remains one of the few West Coast producers of long steel products, leaving it well-positioned to capitalize on stimulus and infrastructure spending when it occurs."
Looking back to early 2009, I expressed plentiful skepticism that the stimulus plan as devised possessed the necessary focus upon boosting industrial activity to spawn a truly sustainable path toward recovery. Meanwhile, the world has watched with wonderment as China's corresponding stimulus relit the fires of pan-Asian industry. South Korean steelmaker POSCO
Even when U.S. steelmaker Nucor
In a recent Motley Poll , readers were nearly evenly split in their expectations regarding the voyage that awaits the American economy overall. 51% of respondents called for a double-dip recession (or worse), while 49% expected a slow recovery (or better). Your opinion is needed to break the tie, so please take a moment to vote in that poll, and to express your own outlook for the American economy in the comments box below.