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October 16, 2015

The U.S. economy is just medicore


America's economy is just so-so.

That's the perception among people who have money in the stock market.

CNNMoney and E*Trade partnered to poll 1,000 U.S. investors who have at least $10,000 in an online trading account. When asked to rate the economy as great, good, fair, poor or extremely poor, nearly half said "fair."

Another 21% rated the economy poor -- or worse.

The U.S. was supposed to be the beacon of the world economy in 2015. While America is certainly doing better than Europe and Japan, it hasn't lived up to its potential. Everyone from the Federal Reserve to Wall Street banks has had to slash their forecasts for growth this year.

Job gains are slowing down. People still aren't buying much and the manufacturing sector is getting slammed by the strong U.S. dollar, which makes American goods more expensive on the world market.

These cracks in the U.S. economy are feeding into the perception that the economy isn't even in the category of "good, but not great," as some economists like to characterize it.

Investors are willing to go only so far as give it a "fair" grade.

That could be a problem going forward, since sentiment plays a roll in how much they're willing to dig into their pockets for holiday spending or how much they invest.

On top of that, investors don't have a lot of faith in how policymakers in Washington D.C. are steering the economy.

Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve only get a "C" grade for their performance handling the economy. And another debt ceiling crisis -- where the U.S. might not be able to pay its bills -- is a mere days away.

Despite the feeling of gloom over where we are, Americans remain optimistic about the future. Among those surveyed, over half -- 56% -- believe their investment portfolio will be perform better in 2016.

That might not be hard since the Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their worst annual performance since 2008.

Wall Street experts also remain cautiously bullish.

The days of 10%-plus stock market gains like we saw in 2012, 2013 and 2014 may be gone for awhile, but investment strategists who get paid a lot of money to make forecasts don't think a stock market crash or economic recession is on the horizon.

"The technical picture [for stocks] may be starting to improve and the market action suggests that fears of a global recession are waning," wrote Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni research in a morning note Friday.

The general consensus is there will be a slow grind higher, despite some uglier than expected data on the economy that is likely to emerge from time to time.

"Investors shouldn't be overly influenced by individual pieces of data," says Kristina Hooper, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global Investors. "One jobs report does not an entire economy -- or Fed decision -- make."

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