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.
Fool contributor Christopher Barker is the Nat King of Coal and the wild boar of iron ore. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly in the Motley Fool CAPS community under the user name TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns shares of Nucor. Nucor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. POSCO is a former Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a stainless disclosure policy.