I don't mean to tell you that I told you so, but I did.

Earlier this month, parsing the data from the Purchasing Managers Index, I warned that things were starting to look bleak in this, our "Summer of Recovery." In July, new orders for factory equipment dropped 5%, production slipped 4.4%, while inventories of unsold goods began to totter precariously, 4.4% higher than they stood in June.

Conclusion: "It looks to me like an economy starting to run out of steam."

And now we have the numbers to back that up:


Buy American or …
This morning, the Commerce Department issued its second-of-three guesses as to the state of the U.S. economy in the second quarter. Putting GDP growth at 1.6%, it now appears we grew less than half as fast as we did in Q1, and fully 50% slower than the Commerce clerks had calculated last month.

Horrible news, right? I mean, one moment United Technologies (NYSE: UTX), Textron (NYSE: TXT), and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) (and many, many others) are telling us business is going great guns. They're running factories full tilt, and foreigners are eating up their wares. The next, Commerce drops the bombshell: While exports grew 9.1%, imports surged 32.4%, subtracting 3.4% from what GDP growth would have been but for the imports.

… bye-bye America?
So the truth comes out. This is a "Buy American" problem, right? If Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) would just quit making iPhones in China, and Corning to made its glass here, instead of next door to the Korean companies that install it in LCD TVs before shipping 'em Stateside, we'd be looking at 5% GDP growth instead of 1.6%?

It's always bleakest before the dawn
Not necessarily. I mean, these companies don't build their goods abroad because they "hate America." They do it because it's cheap to produce abroad. And the cheaper it is to build stuff abroad, the more money left over for wages, and shareholder profits, here at home.

But this won't last forever. Over in China, we're hearing reports of suicides at Foxconn's iPhone sweatshops, while labor strikes idle production lines at Chinese subsidiaries of Toyota (NYSE: TM) and Honda (NYSE: HMC). Meanwhile, wage concessions from the AFL-CIO have GM, Chrysler, and Ford (NYSE: F) hiring new workers.

Foolish takeaway
Today's economic news doesn't look good. I'm not saying it is. But the thing about a dynamic global economy, is that it's bigger than just U.S. The pendulum's always shifting, and bad news eventually becomes good news if you're patient enough.

Don't give up hope.

That's my take on today's news, at least. But what do you see in today's chart? Take the Foolish Rorschach test. Tell us about it below.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. Rich is not a licensed economist, but he plays one on the Web. Check out his latest stock recommendations on Motley Fool CAPS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Apple and Ford Motor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool has established a bear put spread position on Caterpillar.