I think Jeff Tjornehoj summed it up best this month: "Score one for chaos." As the recovery crawls forward and the Middle East continues to erupt, market and investor reaction make it clearer than ever that we live in an interconnected world. Political clashes in the Mideast prompt the rise of oil prices, slamming the U.S. consumer at the pump.

And with a still shaky job market, U.S. consumers haven't returned to their buying addiction that fueled economic growth. Still, optimism can be found.

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