Sunday, February 22, 2009

Economy Dreadful, But Worse Elsewhere

The New York Times - If the economies and stock markets of the world were graded on a curve, the United States would be doing quite well.

In the fourth quarter of last year, the American economy shrank at a 3.8 percent annual rate, the worst such performance in a quarter-century. They are envious in Japan, where this week the comparable figure came in at negative 12.7 percent — three times as bad.

Industrial production in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in three decades. But the 10 percent year-over-year plunge reported this week for January looks good in comparison to the declines in countries like Germany, off almost 13 percent in its most recently reported month, and South Korea, down about 21 percent.

Even in the area of exploding mortgages, the United States has done better than some countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. There it is possible now to owe twice what a house is worth — even if the house has not lost much of its value.

Grading on the curve, as any college student knows, requires that a certain proportion of high grades be given out no matter how badly the class as a whole performs. If the best student in the class gets just over half the answers right on a difficult test, that student deserves an A.

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