It’s been a rocky start for 2016, continuing the choppiness that started in August. US stocks as measured by the CRSP US Total Market Index are down roughly 5% since the beginning of the year and almost 9% since the last market peak on June 22nd.

The title of last week’s Brief “It’s Not That Bad” rubbed a few of our readers the wrong way. It was insensitive at best to those in the real estate industry and I apologize.US mortgage foreclosures are set to top 1 million this year and home prices are falling at the fastest pace since the Great Depression. In the real estate industry it is that bad. While there is still mixed thought on whether it will drag the economy into recession, more industry leaders and economists are calling for dramatic government action. They say we need significant fiscal (tax cuts and relaxed mortgage rules) and monetary stimulation (further Fed rate reductions).

Despite another week of lackluster news from the economy, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are headed for their seventh straight week of gains. The Dow has declined only 5 days out of the last 30. Record takeovers so far this year are steadily driving stock prices higher. Today’s prices are up on two more takeovers and a surprise increase in consumer confidence. The Reuters/University ofMichigan's preliminary index of sentiment rose to 88.7% this month from 87.1% in April. It was the first increase in four months as strength in the labor and stock markets overcame record gasoline prices.

The economy is neither too hot nor too cold, according to the government’s announced revision yesterday of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.  Continued steady consumer spending and a narrowing trade deficit prompted the government to raise its estimate of the economy’s first quarter growth from 3.1% to 3.5%, which exceeds the ten-year average of 3.3%.  Many had feared that higher energy prices would dampen consumer spending more dramatically than it has so far.  Offsetting the higher costs have been wages and salaries.  They expanded considerably more in the final quarter of 2004 than the government first reported.