The limited evidence since the November easing has supported our view that the U.S. economy has been working its way through a soft patch. And the patch has certainly been soft. The labor market has remained subdued, as businesses apparently have been reluctant to add to payrolls. The manufacturing sector remains especially damped, and nonresidential construction has trended lower. By all reports, state and local governments continue to struggle with deterioration in their fiscal conditions. Oil prices have recently risen and, not least, the economies of most of our major trading partners have shown little vigor.