Expansion Under Way?

Follow the optimism index each week to guage the outlook for economic growth, jobs, real estate, and the stock market.

The Optimism Meter clocked in at 45 on Feb. 2, up from 37 one week earlier as a survey of Americans showed that only 36% still believe the economy is getting worse. Economists now forecast that GDP will grow by 2.7% in 2010. Developed by Bloomberg BusinessWeek using data from pollster YouGov, the Optimism Meter is a proprietary measure of sentiment and expectations, economic statistics, and market forecasts. It evaluates shifts in outlook among individuals, professional investors, and economists in the areas of U.S. economic growth, jobs, equity markets, and real estate. Each of the charts that follow measures one of the four different components of the Optimism Meter: economic growth, jobs, equity markets, and real estate. Like the Optimism Meter, the components appear on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highest level of optimism. ECONOMIC GROWTH: GROWTH DAYS ARE BACK AGAIN

HIGHLIGHT: Bloomberg’s survey of 57 economists estimates that U.S. gross domestic product will expand by 2.7% in 2010 and 2.9% in 2011. Only 36% of respondents said they think the economy is getting worse. JOBS: EMPLOYMENT CHALLENGES

HIGHLIGHT: Fifty percent of individuals say that if they lost their job, it would be very hard to find a new one that paid as much. That’s up from 45% one week earlier. Economists predict that unemployment will average 9% in 2011, down from an average 10% in 2010. EQUITY MARKETS: STILL BUMPY

HIGHLIGHT: The volatility of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has increased in recent weeks. Still, only 18% of individuals expect the stock market to fall over the next 12 months. REAL ESTATE: ANYBODY’S GUESS?

Fifty-eighty percent of YouGov survey respondents said that they believed their homes wouldn’t lose value over the next year. Twenty-nine percent think real estate has yet to hit a bottom.

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