All That Glitters / Looking Forward Without Much Joy

Walking down the street in New York this week you didn't feel any great crisis, not even compared to the happy times from the beginning of 2008 before the big crash. The stores are packed, the streets are jammed with people and yellow cabs, and the economic experts are now talking about how the U.S. has already hit bottom. But don't be fooled, there is still no great joy.

The numerous economic experts who showed up for TheMarker's conference in New York over the past two days agreed with everyone else: The worst is behind us, but the coming recovery will be very slow, partial and very gentle, and it will show up differently in different economic sectors.

Of all the hundreds of business people and commentators who gathered for the conference, there was not a single one who painted a brighter picture; no one who said: "You'll see, the economy will surprise us and you will all eat your hats."

That is why the celebration was incomplete. Business is stabilizing, which can be seen all over. You can see it in real estate, in credit markets, in infrastructure and elsewhere in the financial sector. In places where business was completely paralyzed for over nine months, there are signs of the first deals being done and others in the pipeline. They are solitary deals at very different prices from those before the crisis, but at least there are deals.

Of course there is still a huge gap between different sectors: High-tech and green tech are expected to grow more vigorously, while finance and securitization will remain frozen.

But the situation in America is still very different from a few months ago. It is no longer in a state of despair and helplessness.

Getting back to normal, the Americans say, and they even have a name for it: the new normality. The new situation describes slower economic growth than what we were used to, wrapped in a heavier regulatory and governmental framework than we knew, more critical and exacting.

Interestingly enough, no one is mad at the government, no one is shouting that the state is too involved or is threatening the free market and individual initiative.

Today, Americans realize that the administration's actions, both those of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, succeeded in stabilizing the greatest crisis in the last 70 years within only a few months, and they are grateful. "All in all they did good work," say business people, and they are genuinely pleased that the administration was there when it was needed, and happy to continue on together hand in hand - at least for a while.

In corporate America life goes on and has returned to a sort of routine, but everyone knows that the forecasts of slow and fragile growth imply they will have to work harder to make less.