The United States economy looks pretty good -- from afar

Just when Americans were hearing about Friday's stock market plunge and rising interest rates, along came a couple of items on that often neglected bright side of the ledger. To balance our weekend accounts, we note that the poor old American economy seems to be looking better in the rest of the world than it does at home. For some reason we think of much-belittled pianist Liberace crying all the way to the bank. Nobody loved him but the public.

Now a survey of business executives overseas finds them sounding more upbeat about America than the homegrown headlines. More than 70 percent of the 63 interviewees in a dozen countries said they would increase their investments in the United States if the value of the dollar were to fall by a third in relation to their own currency -- which may seem only prudent in view of what their money would buy in dollars. But 40 percent said they would maintain their American investments, and 22 percent said they would increase them even if inflation were to double in the US next year.

The reasons most often given, according to a weekend report, were "confidence in the American economy's long-term growth, faith in the free-enterprise system, and appreciation of United States political stability." One European business leader called the US "the last country where economic freedom will prevail, and where profit does not have a negative connotation, as is often the case in socialistic Europe."

Then along came another unexpected item, that in August the US had its top trading month in more than four years. Exports boomed, resulting in a trade deficit of only $1.06 billion. Not peanuts exactly but one reason for a government analyst's forecast of a 1980 deficit slightly lower than last year's in history.

So things could be worse, as the fellow said. And Americans might be excused for feeling some of that confidence in their system proclaimed by businessmen abroad.

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