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Searching for value in a week’s worth of economic news (access required)

It's been an on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand kind of week for anyone trying to get a handle on the state of our economic health. It started with word from the Cambridge, Mass.-based National Bureau of Economic Research that the recession -- the longest the U.S. had endured since World War II -- had ended in June 2009. Oh, really? As the Associated Press dryly pointed out, Americans are still struggling with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, meager wage gains, struggling home values and sales, and a foreclosure plague that shows little sign of slowing. And on that note, there was plenty of real estate news this week -- none of it very good. Sales of previously occupied homes crept up in August, but not enough to keep the summer from being the slowest for sales in a decade. New home sales were actually worse in August -- the second-slowest pace on record. One economist called it "a pitiful performance." On the other hand, home construction is up 25 percent from the bottom in April 2009. But on still another hand, it is 74 percent below the peak in January 2006.