photo by Sun StarThe stock market just had its best first quarter in 14 years. The surge has sent Wall Street analysts, whose forecasts seemed too sunny three months ago, scrambling to raise their estimates for the year.

“That it’s up isn’t surprising. It’s the magnitude.” 

For the first three months of the year, the Dow was up 8 percent and the S&P 12 percent, the best start since the great bull market of the 1990s. The Nasdaq had an even more remarkable run — up 19 percent for the year, according to the Associated Press.

Not only that, in the measurements of seemingly every other indicator of US economic health, optimism bubbled up with each new report released in March.

US sales of previously occupied homes for the winter was the best in five years. And, homebuilders have grown more confident too. In February, they requested the most permits to build homes since October 2008.

Small business confidence rose to its highest level in a year in the first quarter with more firms planning to ramp up hiring as the economy’s prospects improved, a survey showed on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Optimism for higher revenues, profits and new business in the coming 12 months hit record levels among U.S. manufacturing and service industry executives polled in a recent survey. Expectations for increased business activity hit the highest level among service executives and second highest among their manufacturing counterparts since the poll began measuring U.S. business sentiment in October 2009. (Biz Journals)

“A positive economic mood has clearly taken hold among the nation’s manufacturing- and service-sector leaders,” said Lynne M. Doughtie, vice chair for the audit, tax and advisory firm, KPMG.

US companies ordered more equipment and machinery in February, even after an investment tax credit was halved. Orders for durable goods, a good measure of business investment plans, rose 2.2 percent in February, said the Commerce Department. (AP via NPR)

Volkswagen announced it would add 800 jobs at Tennessee factory in Chattanooga, just one piece of news in a brightening employment market. The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment benefits dipped last week to the lowest level since April 2008. Jobless claims have been moving steadily lower in recent weeks amid other signs that the job market is gaining strength. (LA Times)

The latest tally of the nation’s gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services produced, showed a solid 3% increase in the fourth quarter last year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. (LA Times)

Consumer confidence rebounded to its highest in 13 months at the end of March as optimism about jobs and income overcame higher prices at the gasoline pump, according to a Thomson Reuters report.

– And fresh data released Friday suggest that consumer spending rose 0.8 percent in February, the Commerce Department said. That’s the best gain in seven months. (AP)

Any of these reports alone might not have merited a feature article in the Good News Network, but taken together they become a beacon of hope and optimism.

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