'Send Me A One-Armed Economist'

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Pity the poor investor, poised before a vast portfolio and trying to figure out whether to buy or sell. Just when it looked as if the U.S. economy is picking up the pace (GDP grew by 4.2 percent last quarter), sending shudders through Wall Street on fears the Fed would raise interest rates, the Labor Department reported signs of sputtering today: unemployment crept up to 5.4 percent in July, while job creation fell to 193,000 new positions, down from 220,000 in June. In the same vein, the Commerce Department reports that consumer spending fell 0.2 percent in June, the first decline since holiday season shoppers holed up at home instead of hitting the malls with their usual verve. No wonder President Truman, weary of economists hedging every prediction with the line "on the other hand," once demanded that his aides produce a one-armed economist. -->