The best place to find decent information on the current state of the economy is on the trading blogs. Good stuff this. The folks are bright and capable, the conversation is brisk and intelligent. Reading them is a joy. Mish, Michael Panzer, Yves, and Jesse are all witty, cogent, and write superbly. Please take your time to read them, you will not be disappointed.
But when you stand back and look at it, the actual things that they talk about is really kind of odd. They are really talking about second or third level abstractions from the true economic activity of the country. Now perhaps I am an uneducated rube, but to me economic activity boils down to folks creating goods and services and selling them and the using the money to buy goods and services from other folks (while reserving a little bit to buy equipment and a tad to go into savings).
So these guys are concerned mainly with buying share of companies which employ folks doing economic activity. So they are one level of abstraction away from true economic activity. I can live with that, but they really aren't producing anything. They are merely allotting capital in a more or less rational manner.
Then you have the folks who buy mutual funds. These folks buy shares of people who buy shares of companies which employ folks doing economic activity. Another level of abstraction added.
You can go through the process with banks (the way I figure it, two steps of abstraction), hedge funds (three), derivatives (four), etc, etc. etc.
Maybe it is just me, and I am certain that this question will infuriate the free-market fundamentalists, but shouldn't there be a more rational way to run an economy?