The FT can tie itself in knots talking up the outlook, but real people know what’s coming.

The Financial Times is risking its credibility with the current level of contradictory reporting

US data point to surge in recovery

US data emphasise risk to recovery

Hopes high for 2011

US  stocks fall despite positive jobless data

Basle reveals liquidity gap for biggest banks

US data point to economic pick-up

Let’s deconstruct this ‘reportage’ line by line.

The first and last optimistic lines are accurate, if you call a higher volume of trading at a loss a recovery. I call  it accelerating into the outside lane towards bankruptcy.

Hopes may be high for the 0.01% of US earners who’ve seen their salaries grow by 700%, or the top one fifth who’ve seen them grow by 60%. For those either out of a job or earning 10% less, they’re not very high at all.

All of the above can be put down to me being a preachy killjoy. However, the data showing the risk to recovery point out that, without Americans getting their plastic out again and giving it a good bashing in the Malls of their country, their ain’t gonna be no recovery. And for the last fourteen months in a row,  they’ve done the exact opposite. Being in negative equity an’ all, it seems reasonable to suggest they’ll carry on doing it.

The fall in US stocks despite data showing a jobless fall merely repeats a double-trend we’ve seen for some time now: that is, (a) stock markets behaving in a speculative, money-at-the-edges way, rather than rationally; and (b) a large core of savvy investors who privately know that short-term data are irrelevant: the US  is in deep trouble.

And last but not least, recoveries and growth can’t happen happen without freed-up bank lending. Not only are the new Basle liquidity rules confirming bank conservatism on loans, there is also a vast arc of banks right across Europe with shredded balance sheets. The biggest lie of 2010 was the continuing insistence by governments that banks are gradually recovering. They are not – and most of the European toxicity has yet to be discovered.

There comes a point where ‘atlking things up’ creates not confidence but false hopes….and eventually, sceptical cynicism. The FT has now reached that point.