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Things are looking better, but we aren't a cocky bunch yet. In fact, the country is grudgingly coming around to the notion that it might survive, despite all the risk and all the unnecessary obstacles in the path of the recovery. These are man-made obstacles that aim to bifurcate, the embedded economic strength of the nation.

The wildcard for the recovery has been Main Street.

The American public was burned, and they didn't get a rescue. Everyone else got a piece of their money from unions, to Wall Street banks, to insurance companies, even an Italian automobile company that failed miserably in this country. Where's the cash for Main Street? Cash for Clunkers... Are you kidding me? And, a stimulus bill that went to fix up a few potholes on roads, and larger potholes in state budgets.

Oh, the Fed is pumping money into the system to help Main Street.

Come on - get real, that Fed money isn't going to Main Street. While banks claim there's no demand for business loans, they continue to sell crappy assets, with radiation readings that would crack the monitor of most industrial strength Geiger counters...and their fortunes continue to improve. Yet, there is something to the notion of the public being risk-averse.

Main Street has mostly missed the stock market rally, the rebound in housing (unless they still own theirs) and aren't keen on even borrowing on their credit cards.

The economy is creeping higher, and job growth is gaining traction (see ADP report above). Will this spark something in the public that reflects the kind of confidence that a true economic recovery needs to be sustained and convincing? That remains to be seen, but it feels like there's a wind in our sails.

Still Paying Off Debt

I have been in love, and in debt, and in drink,
this many and many a year
-Alexander Brome

Consumer credit for November was released late yesterday, and it pretty much underscores the mood of the nation. We are borrowing to buy cars, because anyone can get a loan, the rates are low, and our vehicles are old. Student loans continue to soar, as I'm sure many recipients foresee a day when some, or all is forgiven.

Non-Revolving +$11.9 billion

But, when we hit the stores, we refuse to use our credit cards. Consumer spending is up, which means the rate of savings is taking a hit, but the plastic we pull out over and over again, is the debit card.

Revolving +$.5 billion

Overall, the pace of credit has slowed the most since April of last year. Non-revolving debt percentage change was as follows:

September +9.2%
October +7.6%
November +6.4%

The big change in outstanding debt is the risk to taxpayers after investment pools will be shut down and student loan lenders shutout.

The Federal Reserve seems perplexed about Main Street's stubborn resistance to getting a piece of the action, even when they have the right FICO scores to do so. The next couple of months need to be watched closely for continued job growth, more public demand for home loans, and a few shoppers asking the cashier to charge it, rather than swiping with a debit card. Economists call it velocity of money, and it has to kick in soon, but until then...We are not cocky.

Challenger Gray & Christmas

Following yesterday's good ADP private payrolls report, the Challenger Gray and Christmas monthly layoffs report also came in positively. Employers' layoff plans called for 30,623 firings in December, which was well down from the 45,314 reported in November, and even better, it was the lowest amount of planned layoffs since June 2000.

So going into tomorrow hopes are high for the official jobs number, and a good result would cap off what has really been a good run of economic data in recent weeks.