An Overview Of The U.S. Economy's Mixed Signals

There's been a wave of mixed economic news this week: dropping oil prices, low jobless claims, falling markets. What does it mean for the economy?

An Overview Of The U.S. Economy's Mixed Signals
Getty Images / Spencer Platt

There's been a wave of mixed economic news this week.

CHRISTINE ROMANS VIA CNN"We do have this positive sign in the labor market. This jobless claims number that was the lowest, I think, in 14 years."

SEEMA MODY VIA CNBC"The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones suddenly at the lowest level ever since April 2014."

MARIA BARTIROMO VIA FOX BUSINESS"Here's another story to look at. Crude oil. Prices have been plummeting."

So, low unemployment, roller coaster market numbers and plunging crude. To understand what these indicators mean for the U.S. economy, we also have to understand what they mean abroad.

Let's start with that last one: Oil. There's concern the drop in oil prices could lead to further instability for oil-dependent governments like Russia, Iraq and Venezuela. (Video via RT)

Which could result in those countries shutting down their oil fields, which would send prices soaring.

And as Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations told NPR, falling oil prices might not be a boon to the U.S. economy either. Particularly for the automobile industry. (Video via World Affairs Council)

"So you would think that with falling oil prices, people would have more money to spend, including on automobiles. But what we see historically is that when oil prices are volatile ... they put a pause on any plans to buy a car or truck."

As with oil prices, indicators are also mixed for the U.S. dollar.

Faltering economies in Europe, a sales tax jump in Japan, and speculation of a Chinese real estate bubble are all helping to bolster the greenback. 

But a strong dollar could hurt American exports and therefore the American economy.

As one analyst told The Washington Post"We're the best house in a bad neighborhood. ... But we're all interconnected. It's globalization."

The European stagnation, together with promising employment numbers, has led some analysts to speculate Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen might raise interest rates sooner than later, which would reduce investment in the economy — though the Fed has done nothing to substantiate this anxiety. (Video via Bloomberg)

Perhaps the only clarity in the recent economic news is that after five years of extreme growth, the stock market might be correcting itself to better reflect the U.S. economy. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and Richard-G, CC BY 2.0.