Commentary: A few optimistic signs for the economy

For those maxed out on dismal economic news, the latest reports offer a needed dose of optimism.

The economy expanded by a robust 5.7 percent in the last three months of 2009. A big reason: businesses restocking their shelves. New factory orders rose to their highest level in six years. And on Monday, the Institute of Supply Management said its manufacturing index jumped more than expected in January. Exports are up as well.

Economists caution that the recovery can’t maintain this pace. With consumer spending still sluggish, inventory rebuilding likely will slack off a bit. And the prospect for job growth remains on the gloomy side, although more companies say they’re close to the point of adding workers.

It will take several years of rapid economic growth — which isn't expected — to replace the 7 million jobs lost in the recession.

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