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The U.K. and Japan have slumped into recession while the U.S. keeps defying gloomy expectations

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LONDON : As some of the world’s biggest economies stumble into recession, the United States keeps chugging along.

Both Japan and the United Kingdom said on Thursday their economies likely weakened during the final three months of 2023. For each, it would be the second straight quarter that’s happened, which fits one lay definition for a recession.

Yet in the United States, the economy motored ahead in last year’s fourth quarter for a sixth straight quarter of growth. It’s blown past many predictions coming into last year that a recession seemed inevitable because of high interest rates meant to slow the economy and inflation.

Give much of the credit to U.S. households, who have continued to spend at a solid rate despite many challenges. Their spending makes up the majority of the U.S. economy. Government stimulus helped households weather the initial stages of the pandemic and a jump in inflation, and now pay raises are helping them catch up to high prices for the goods and services they need.

On Thursday, a report showed that fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits last week. It’s the latest signal of a remarkably solid job market, even though a litany of layoff announcements has grabbed attention recently. Continued strength there should help prop up the economy.

Of course, risks still loom, and economists say a recession can’t be ruled out. Inflation could reaccelerate. Worries about heavy borrowing by the U.S. government could upset financial markets, ultimately making loans to buy cars and other things more expensive. Growing losses tied to commercial real estate could mean big pain for the financial system.

But, for now, the outlook continues to appear better for the United States than many other big economies. The mood on Wall Street is so positive that the main measure of the U.S. stock market, the S&P 500 index, topped the 5,000 level last week for the first time.

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