Remaining economic and market bears may soon be forced into hibernation.  Even the most obstinate of naysayers may have to acquiesce to the improving economic outlook.  As is the case every four years, the primaries have taken center stage in the media and most of what we hear is the obligatory bashing of the economy and the current administration’s economic policies. 

In his testimony before committees of the House of Representatives on Wednesday and the Senate yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan delivered essentially the same message.  The extraordinary pace of productivity has reduced the need for companies to hire workers, but the lengthy spell of jobless growth is "atypical" compared to previous cycles.  In his view employment should be "expanding at a reasonably good clip within a short period of time." 

The headline Unemployment Rate, announced this morning, fell by a tenth of a percent to 5.6%, the lowest since January 2002.  But today’s focus is on the number of jobs created.  The change in non-farm (service) payrolls was up by 112,000 jobs, the biggest jump in three years, but less than expected.  Everyone from economists, to analysts, from bond traders to stock traders, and I suspect the White House expected a bigger number.  Why?  Virtually every measure of growth in theU.S.economy points to increased job formation.

If you watched any financial news or commentary at all this week you could not have missed the attention given to whether or not the Fed would continue to use the phrasing “considerable period” in their prepared comments.  The words have appeared in their remarks for several months conveying to the financial world that they were prepared to keep interest rates low for an indefinite period to sustain a less-than-robust economic recovery.  The phrase was dropped on Wednesday and replaced with the words can “be patient” before raising rates. 

This holiday-shortened week has been a busy one for corporate earnings reports and management comments.  The World Economic Forum inDavos,Switzerlandhas also been a major focus of investors.  Almost without exception the numbers have been exceptionally positive, but the ever-present cautionary tone kept market enthusiasm in check.

Earnings and economic reports are coming in more consistently than was the case several weeks ago.  The recovery looks to be sustainable with some noticeable trends taking shape.

This week stocks investors started the year with conviction as the NASDAQ reached a 2 ½ year high yesterday and a few companies saw their stocks rise more this week than all of last year.  Early selling this morning gave way to buying as investors were cheered by the announcement by TomRidge

Amidst the continuing threats of terror attacks, the War inIraq, the erosion of trust of corporate chieftains and mutual fund managers, the dollar’s continuing decline, and a host of other worries, the S&P 500 index managed the broadest advance in 23 years.  Over 90% of S&P 500 stocks rallied during the year, according to Bloomberg.  The S&P and the Dow Jones Industrials were each up over 28%, including dividends, while the technology and biotech-heavy NASDAQ was up over 50%. 

Good news on jobs, leading economic indicators, and comments from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve sent stocks soaring on Thursday.  So far this year the Dow and S&P are up roughly 24% while the NASDAQ is up 46%.  Stocks are poised to have their first up year since 1999. 

For the first part of the week market prognosticators were absorbed with the question of whether or not the Fed would remove the words “for a considerable period” from their comments indicating how long they might sustain short-term interest rates at these historic levels.  They did not.  Market watchers for the last part of the week have been focused on whether or not the Dow Jones Industrial Index would reach 10,000.   It did.