Finding the Real Key Economic Indicators for Small Business

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economic-indicators.jpgHaving just looked at the sea of little red "down" arrows that is the SBA's fourth-quarter Quarterly Indicators report, all I can say to small business owners everywhere is: Congratulations on surviving this.

Owners income: down. Venture investment: down. Goods-producing industries: down.

I think it's time to look at some alternative economic indicators to get some new readings.

About a year ago, I wrote a short piece about alternative indicators for the magazine. Let's revisit these indicators and see what they say about our current economic outlook.

One idea from the story: examine the results for WalMart, Starbucks and FedEx. WalMart tends to rise in bad times as more shoppers move downscale, while Starbucks and FedEx go up in good times. 

Recently, WalMart's comparable-store sales went down at bit over the nine months ended last fall...interesting.

At Starbucks, sales and profits are up, while FedEx sales and earnings are also recovering. Taken altogether, that paints a hopeful picture of the 2010 economic outlook.

Another interesting place to check is the Intrade market. On this site, investors bet on the likelihood of various events coming to pass. Current Intrade odds that our fragile recovery will die and the country will slide into a full-blown recession in 2010? Only 22 percent.

What are the economic indicators you use most in planning for your business? Leave a comment and let us know your take.

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