Live market action is much better at telling you what is going on with the economy than government data, which is subject to significant delays, adjustments, and even restatements. John Tamny has a nice piece out today which deals with the misleading nature of government statistics in greater detail. This chart shows data through yesterday, data that results from the confluence of buyers and sellers all over the globe. The big story here is that commodity prices a) plunged starting last July, but b) have either hit bottom or bounced significantly since early December.
Industrial metals are up 16% from their early December lows; crude oil is up 18% (even after yesterday's big sellof); soybeans are up 24%; wheat is up 29%; and corn is up 31%. Gold, the commodity which most quickly responds to changes in monetary and economic fundamentals, is up 20% from its low on Nov. 12th (thus showing that it tends to lead other commodities).
I think the commodity price action is telling us that 1) reflationary monetary policy is gaining traction, and 2) global economies are no longer in an airpocket freefall, but are actually beginning to recover, albeit slowly. It's also likely that speculators have finished liquidating their long positions in commodities, but that doesn't detract from the otherwise positive signal of higher commodity prices. Something significant has happened out there in the past month, and it looks encouraging.