Just how fragile are our tentative graspings at confidence … straws in a sleety wind. It seems we are always just one bad statistic from despondency and a creeping sense of doom.

Last week, markets rallied, and our spirits with them, on the US Treasury secretary’s plan to neuter the US banking system’s toxic assets. For, oh, easily days, it seemed a new sense of optimism was warranted, a mood that would surely be sealed this week by a show of sense and solidarity from the G20.

Yesterday the OECD warned that global growth would stall and unemployment across the planet would hit double figures. All but inevitable. This morning, Australia learned that despite the blandishments of its government, retail sales had fallen 2% through February. New homes were still being built hammer and tongs, but that was it. The economy elsewhere seemed to be grinding to a dispirited halt.

And this will be the pattern of our lives now, up and down on every successive number. If a solid sense of enduring confidence is key to our full recovery, then we probably have good cause to worry.