If the latest U.S. growth figures tell us anything, it's that American businesses and American consumers are living in two very different worlds right now.
The country's economy expanded at a 2 percent rate from July through September, up from 1.3 percent during the three months before. Broadly speaking, this is good news -- the economy appears to have sped up a tad, although we won't really know by how much until the revisions come out in November.
But the data still tell a very clear story. As you can see in the second chart above, personal consumption (in dark blue) is still growing. Shoppers are headed back to stores, but businesses are pulling back their investment. Spending on in things like factory equipment and new buildings, which has helped carry the economy through much of the recovery, contracted at a 1.3 percent rate. On the other hand, the market for residential real estate is grew at a 14.4 percent rate.
There are a few potential reasons for this increasingly apparent split, which the Daily Beast's Matthew Zeitlin and Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal have been writing about over the past month. Consumers have a fairly narrow view of the economy, and what they're seeing is relatively bright (emphasis on relatively). The job market is healing slowly but steadily. After finally bottoming out, housing prices have staged a recovery, and construction is picking up. Meanwhile, the higher home values go, the more comfortable Americans tend to feel opening their checkbooks at the mall or their local Chevy dealer.