Deflation: 7 Facts to Shrink Your Fear

When the ghosts and goblins have got you down, take a look at some good news.

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Halloween is supposed to be spooky for the kiddos, but American adults seem to be embracing it, too. I scanned the most popular stories on NYTimes.com on Sunday and noticed that two top headlines had a common theme: "Fear of Deflation Lurks as Global Demand Drops" and "Obama Is Up, and Fans Fear That Jinxes It."

Lovely way to prepare for the week ahead. Folks, if you bathe in fear on Sunday, it'll be tough to lose the scent by the time you reach the office Monday morning.

Indeed, the ghosts and goblins (i.e., the pollsters and pundits) are getting to us, and it doesn't bode well for the attitude we're bringing to our work. Pessimists and scaredy cats are no good to employers in a downturn—they can't see opportunity or the light at the end of the tunnel and they often try to keep others from seeing bright spots as well. Companies need workers who aren't hamstrung by bad headlines.

Let's look at seven reasons we can be hopeful this week:

  • Bargain hunters are heading back into the housing market. The Wall Street Journal reports that the inventory of unsold homes on the market is shrinking in most of the 28 metro areas examined in its quarterly survey as investors snap up cheap homes for turning into rentals.
    • Many threatened homeowners are getting a big reprieve: JPMorgan Chase plans to renegotiate the terms of $70 billion worth of mortgages for about 400,000 borrowers and says it will halt foreclosures while it works with customers. Phew. If it wasn't a close call for you, it could have been for your client.
      • October ended well. It was a volatile (and lousy) month overall for stock market investors, and while the Dow ended down for the month, it did gain more than 11 percent in the final week of October. Ken Tower of Quantitative Analysis Service told Marketwatch: "This is marking a real change in market behavior... It's not only the stock market rallying but [evidence that] the pressure is coming off of the money markets."
        • Wall Street is (finally) making sense. JPMorgan has canceled its Christmas festivities and instead is asking the firm's divisions to give their holiday money to financially strapped nonprofits, the New York Post reports.
          • Recent economic data are better than expected. The GDP report Friday showed the economy shrank by 0.3 percent in the third quarter, rather than the 0.5 percent expected by many economists. Also, while construction spending dropped by 0.3 percent in September, it was, again, less than the 0.8 percent expected.
            • Companies are still hiring. For proof, take a look at this "spreadsheet of sunshine," compiled by Rafe Needleman at CNet.com. Facebook alone is looking to hire 100 people—engineers, designers, finance professionals, and others. Need more proof? Go to a job search site like Monster.com and look for, say, positions in the insurance industry in Indiana. Results on Monster: 241. "Bank teller" in Illinois? Results: 103.
              • Merrill Lynch employees want bigger retention bonuses. It's a good sign, says Felix Salmon, writing at Portfolio.com. If Merrill Lynch employees have the gall to complain about the size of Bank of America's retention bonuses rather than simply be glad for a spot on the payroll, it's solid evidence that "good old-fashioned stock-brokering has managed to survive the financial crisis pretty well," Salmon writes.