Freeing the Miners and, Slowly, the World

We've become so mentally stuck that it's easy to miss how things are wriggling free. Gone, for the most part, are the gloomy double-dip prognostications. In September the National Bureau of Economic Research confidently stamped an end date of June 2009—at least technically—on the downturn.

As it turns out, we're slowly becoming unstuck. The recession stuck around for 18 months—and has been over for just as long. Since April, when investors became spooked about Greece, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has recouped its losses. A year and a half after filing for bankruptcy, General Motors' (GM) $23.1 billion stock offering in November suggests the reemergence of IPOs. And this month the U.S. government sold its remaining shares of Citigroup (C). According to a recent Bloomberg News survey, Wall Street strategists predict the S&P will rise 11 percent in 2011.

Private equity shops have completed four times as many leveraged buyouts this year as they did in 2009, including the $5.3 billion sale of Del Monte Foods (DLM) to a group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR). Despite the housing market's immobility, investors are driving up prices of hotels, shopping centers, and Manhattan skyscrapers: The $3 billion One World Trade Center is rising one story per week at Ground Zero.

Globally, the combat mission in Iraq is over—technically—and the U.S. is forging ahead diplomatically. In November, President Obama sent a message to China by visiting India to strengthen ties with one of the world's fastest-growing economies. The White House has agreed to a trade pact with South Korea after years of delays and is becoming closer to Vietnam. It's also reassuring to know that a man stuck in a Chilean mine for 69 days can run the New York City marathon weeks later. Edison Peña finished in just over five and a half hours. Al Roker finished an hour and a half later. What's his excuse?

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