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The outlook for the American economy is improving. That was the message from the Federal Reserve last Wednesday, as the US central bank issued new forecasts showing faster GDP growth and lower unemployment. But no, America’s economic prospects are actually getting worse. That was the clear implication of disappointing official growth numbers published less than 48 hours later. The US economy expanded 2.2pc during the first quarter, we learnt, well-below market expectations and sharply down from the 3pc growth rate notched-up during the final three months of 2011.

The economic news flowed thick and fast last week. The UK has just slipped back into recession, albeit on preliminary first quarter data. The eurozone too, continued to vex financial markets, with Sarkozy now in serious danger of losing the French Presidency and the “hard-as-nails” Dutch government quitting after rows over tighter spending plans.
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