What Americans Really Think About the U.S. Economy

Tickers in this article: AMTD

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You can't blame Americans if they're of two minds over the U.S. economy.

Late last week, consumers saw a gross domestic product number slip into negative territory, to -0.1% -- a possible precursor to a recession, and is certainly not good news for the economy -- and the U.S. Labor Department report that the U.S. added 157,000 jobs in December, with huge upward revisions in jobs for the two previous months.

But consumers aren't confused about the U.S. economy. Fresh data from T.D. Ameritrade (AMTD) actually show U.S. adults are clear that this year:

  • The S&P 500 will be higher (55%)
  • U.S. unemployment will be lower (54%)
  • U.S. GDP will be higher (45%)
  • Taxes will be higher (85%)
  • Corporate earnings will be higher (53%)
  • The federal deficit will be higher (73%)

Sure, as T.D. Ameritrade points out, Americans are bullish in some areas and bearish in others, but there's little doubt they have more clarity on the economy than some have given them credit for.

In essence, Americans are saying the short-term prospects, as measured by their outlooks on the stock market, unemployment, company earnings and GDP (although last week's dip should curb that positive sentiment), are positive. All told, 46% of investors interviewed by the investment firm are "optimistic" about the U.S. economy in 2013, slightly up from the 43% recorded in September.

Over the long haul, though, not so much. Taxes and spending are still big issues with Americans, with large majorities viewing both economic themes in a negative light.

"Investors are growing more optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy, but they're also looking to our nation's leaders for a credible long-term plan to ensure that this recovery continues to gain momentum," said Tom Bradley, president of retail distribution for TD Ameritrade.

What do Americans want Washington politicians to fix first? The survey has answers for that, too:

  • Addressing federal spending (43%)
  • Fixing the economy (41%)
  • Improving political gridlock in Washington (35%)
  • Addressing the markets in general (31%)
  • Streamlining and improving the nation's tax code (30%)