5 Reasons You Should Be Optimistic

Focus: MARKETS

John Reese Image John Reese Founder and CEO, Validea.com And Validea Capital Management

Sure, there's a lot of fear-based talk coming out of Washington and Brussels (and Tokyo for that matter), but things are definitely looking up if you care to look beyond the headlines, observes John Reese of Validea Hot List.

While the fiscal cliff talks drag on, the US economy is continuing to make gains in several key areas.

In November, for example, the private sector added 147,000 jobs, according to the Labor Department. That was enough to lower the unemployment rate to 7.7%, the lowest it has been since December 2008.

The so-called "U-6" unemployment rate, which unlike the headline figure takes into account workers who have given up looking for a job or those working part-time who want full-time work, also fell to 14.4%. That's still significantly higher than historical averages, but it's the lowest the figure has been since January 2009.

Industrial production, meanwhile, increased 1.1% in November, according to a new Federal Reserve report. Part of the reason for the big gain was a rebound in production in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which had limited production in some areas the previous month. Still, November's gains wiped out all of October's losses, and more-overall production for November was about 0.4% higher than it was in September, before Sandy's arrival.

The housing market also continues to improve. Existing home sales rose 5.9% in November, according to the National Association of Realtors, reaching the highest level in three years.