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THE STRUT of confidence is gone, and the jitters are back. A flurry of dreadful statistics at the end of April made sure of that.
On April 26 came the news that the British economy grew a mere 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011. Coming on the heels of a contraction by that amount in the previous quarter, one commentator was prompted to declare that "the UK is teetering on the brink of a doubledip recession."
Forty-eight hours later, the Commerce Department revealed that the U.S. economy had slowed to a crawl, recording a meager 1.8 percent growth rate in the first quarter, down from over 3 percent at the close of 2010. A day later, word arrived that the Canadian economy had shrunk in February, and that the official rate of unemployment in Spain had jumped to 21.3 percent--and the youth jobless rate to a staggering 40 percent.