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New economic data: the good, the bad and the ugly


With 40 days to go until Election Day, there's fresh economic data. And the numbers -- for President Obama -- are good, bad, and ugly.

First, the good. The Associated Press writes: 

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plunged 26,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, a hopeful sign for the job market. It's the lowest level of weekly applications in nine weeks.

Then there's the bad, also per the AP:

The Commerce Department said Thursday that total durable goods orders fell 13.2 percent in August. That's the biggest drop since January 2009 when the U.S. was in recession. Aircraft orders fell by nearly 102 percent, pulling down the headline figure.  

Economists tend to pay more attention to core capital goods, which signal investment plans. Those orders rose 1.1 percent. That's the first increase since May, although it follows steep declines in the previous two months.

And then there's the ugly:

The U.S. economy grew at a sluggish 1.3 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, held back by the severe drought that reduced farm production in the Midwest. The growth rate was lowered from a previous estimate of 1.7 percent, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

All of these numbers sum up the state of the U.S. economy over the past several months, as well as the challenge here for both Obama and challenger Mitt Romney: The economy is never as good it seems, or as bad. It's somewhere in the middle.