Establishing Clinton's Baseline

Fresh reports sketch the economic landscape facing the new President

THEY ARE MERE NUMBERS. BUT THE NUMBERS AUGUR well. The Clinton Administration was greeted by several promising economic reports and by surveys showing new confidence in the President among business leaders. Topping the list, a Federal Reserve Board survey reported growing economic strength in most of its regions during December and early January. Strong gains in retail sales were echoed by a surge in factory activity. At the same time, the Commerce Department said construction of new homes increased last year for the first time since 1986. Equally important, more new-home building permits were issued in December than at any other...

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