Latest data is 'two steps forward, one step back' - the ongoing pattern for the U.S. economy as it plods ahead. Jeanne Yurman reports.
A batch of economic data out Monday underscores a still improving but choppy recovery for the U.S. economy. The manufacturing sector, for example, is expanding but at a slower rate. A final report on January from the Institute for Supply Management was revised lower to 52.9 from 53.5 - the slowest pace in 13 months. The strong dollar is partly to blame says U.S. economist at Mizuho Securities, Steve Ricchiuto (SOUNDBITE) STEVE RICCHIUTO, U.S. ECONOMIST, MIZUHO SECURITIES (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think the manufacturing numbers are reflecting what's happening in the currency. I mean, you know, the currency has been appreciating, and we're certainly not a very low cost producer that can absorb that kind of currency movement that we've been experiencing, and you're seeing some of the net result damage from it." The strike at West Coast ports may have weighed on the sector as well say economists. Meanwhile consumer spending fell for a second straight month though personal incomes did rise according to the Commerce Department. Welcome news amid a trend of flat wages, but the savings rate is up too - climbing to the highest level in more than two years at 5.5 percent. Standard & Poor's Chief Economist, Beth Ann Bovino. (SOUNDBITE) BETH ANN BOVINO U.S. CHIEF ECONOMIST, STANDARD & POOR'S (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The weather is keeping a lot of people home. That could be one factor at play. Another thing is, maybe people are holding on a little longer to that cash they have saved at the gas pump." With Americans socking away money, it makes it tougher for an economy driven by consumer spending to grow. The murky data as of late doesn't make the Federal Reserve's job easy in trying to decide when to raise interest rates. The jobs report Friday could help.