As the old saying goes, the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions. In other words, sharply falling stock markets are crying wolf about half the time.

Dyke Messinger, who runs a small manufacturing company in Salisbury, N.C., thinks stock investors have been overreacting during this sell-off.

"It is bizarre to me when we see what we believe is good core strength in the U.S. market," he says.

When President Obama first took the oath of office seven years ago this month, the U.S. economy was so battered that many economists were pondering the possibility of another Great Depression.

The fears were real: Employers were cutting 796,000 jobs; the auto industry was facing bankruptcy; private foreclosures and public debts were soaring.

The U.S. economy added 292,000 jobs in December while unemployment held steady at 5 percent, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of new jobs was higher than many economists had anticipated; NPR's John Ydstie says experts had expected about 200,000 new jobs.

Every investor celebrating Christmas this week would love this gift: a really good crystal ball.

It'd be so helpful to look right through the orbuculum and glimpse the future prices of stocks, bonds and gold bars.

Unfortunately, no such ball exists. Our next best option is to turn to economic forecasters. And in general, the professionals see mostly good news for 2016.

I was thinking about a friend of mine from back in the day. Or, more accurately, I was thinking about his parents, who were — how should I put this? — special.

Don't get me wrong: They were the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They were warm and welcoming, they were travelers, they were interesting.

But they had a very, let's say, distinct perspective about a lot of social issues. They really felt that just about any problem you could think of was easily solved with a comfortable pair of walking shoes and an in-ground swimming pool.