Global Economy Loses Its (Ball) Bearings

Bleak sales of ball bearings and other basics suggest the global economy is far more fragile than most observers have acknowledged.

Reflecting the global economy's woes.

PHOTOGRAPHER: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

Few components are as essential to the workings of industry as the humble ball bearing. So the bleak economic picture painted by today's earning report from the world's biggest bearings maker was worrisome enough. But combined with sales news indicating weak consumer demand for staples such as toiletries and food -- goods that economists call inelastic, meaning people tend to keep buying margarine and soap no matter what their economy is doing -- they suggest the global economy is far more fragile than most observers have acknowledged.

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