The economy has so much going for it: low inflation, low interest rates, affordable homes, falling gasoline prices and 27 straight months of job growth. Good times, no?
The economy is slowing, but not because of current conditions. The slowdown reflects the fear of what may be coming next. Economists say employers and investors are paralyzed by the uncertainty surrounding three huge problems: one in the United States, another in Europe and the third in China.
As soon as new French President Francois Hollande was sworn in on Tuesday, he observed a postwar custom and reached out to Germany, in a move intended to underscore European solidarity and the importance of the alliance.
But it wasn't a relaxing social visit. Hollande's plane was struck by lightning en route to Berlin and had to return to Paris as a precaution. He then took another plane.
Voters in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine Westphalia, have delivered a major blow to the ruling party, the Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks with Michael Kolz, the chief political reporter for German station Phoenix, about why the results in North Rhine Westphalia matter and what they mean for the left-wing Social Democrats.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made all the right gestures Monday: the obligatory phone call congratulating French President-elect Francois Hollande. She vowed that the two will "work together well and intensively." And she invited Hollande to Berlin after his inauguration and said she would welcome him "with open arms."
But clearly the French election results mark a setback for Merkel and her goal of solving Europe's economic crisis with financial austerity.