With August now in the history books, we note that the downtrend in fundamental data appears to have been arrested and that a bottoming process is likely underway. Specifically, we saw encouraging signs in August that the U.S. consumer continues to spend in the face of higher gasoline prices. Automobile sales, for example, rose to a 14.46 million annualized rate last month, and chain store sales accelerated to a 2.6% year-over-year growth rate. Global manufacturing surveys also showed some modest improvement during the month, despite remaining near depressed levels.