After another strong quarter, the three major stock-market indices are way up in 2012, with the NASDAQ rising nearly 20 percent this year. Even after closing out September with a poor showing on the month's last trading session on Friday, the Dow Jones is still just 5 percent off its all-time high from 2007, and more than double where it was at the nadir of the recession in March of 2009. The S&P 500 could hit a record by the end of the year, as well. Despite all the talk of the Facebook disaster and high-frequency trading hand-wringing, the U.S. stock markets are quietly chugging along at a healthy pace.
So while the daily ups and downs of the stock market may not matter much to average Americans, it's still another encouraging sign that the economy is on the way up. That makes it difficult for Republicans and Mitt Romney to hammer the president on what was supposed to be their key issue. The campaign seems focused on foreign policy at the moment, because Americans just don't seem as interested in talking about the economy as everyone expected. Maybe it's campaign fatigue or maybe people really are more optimistic, but the economy just doesn't feel as gloomy as it used to.
Then again, unemployment remains the one major economic factor that seems unfazed by any type of economic bounce. (Even home prices are starting to come back.) Yes, the number of jobs created is now a net positive during President Obama's term, but the climb back has been painfully slow and to anyone still looking for work, any unemployment is a disaster. But if the best way to get companies to hire is to get other people to invest more money in them (and convince business owners that they are going to be OK), then the stock trends can only help the situation.