In his second term, freshly re-elected President Barack Obama confronts an economy that offers glimmers of long-missing vitality but remains held back by fiscal and regulatory uncertainties and slowing global growth.
The U.S. economy has shown signs of improvement in recent months. Unemployment is below 8%, stock prices are up, the housing sector is reviving and consumers are starting to step up spending on cars and other big-ticket items after four years of paying down debt.
Yet overall economic growth is anemic. Many European economies are in recession and plagued by financial turmoil. China, the world's second-largest economy, has lost steam—growing at a 7.4% rate in the third quarter, compared with 9.2% last year.