Some people in the US markets are starting to resemble desperate survivors on some stricken ship. Every time a piece of good news drifts past, they grab and paddle like hell to get away from what they think is the bad news.

Take last Friday, which saw sales of existing houses in the US rise 7.2%, the strongest rate for two years. That helped send markets to 2009 highs, and in some cases, the highest levels since October and November. There was, however, two reasons for this good news that everyone ignored.

Then Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke made some reassuring noises about the economy and how it was improving, and off went the markets even higher. But he had a qualifier or two, one of which was rising unemployment — he warned it would be a long, slow climb back to normal growth for the US economy.

So that got us thinking — what else was in the flow of figures on Friday that, at another time, might have frightened the horses and spooked the herd of investors?

31% of all house sales made in July (the 5th month in a row that sales have improved, so there’s a trend) came from foreclosures (i.e. sales at any price). That was up from around 26% in June (which is another trend, but ignored) and that means home prices didn’t really rise.

4.9 billion was the number of extra ‘vehicle miles’ American drivers covered on “all roads and streets” in June of this year, a rise of 2.9% from June 2008 as cheaper petrol got Americans back on the road again. America’s Highway Administration said that travel for the month of June was was estimated to be 256.7 billion vehicle miles and cumulative travel so far this year is 0.4% lower than for the first half of 2008.

$US74 a barrel was the 2009 peak for oil hit on Friday. As Americans are driving more (and buying more cars), it’s no wonder the surge in world oil prices is pushing up retail petrol prices. They peaked in late June at $US2.69 a galloon for unleaded, and seem head back there- $US2.62 a gallon on Friday. As the summer driving season nears its end, oil closed a touch under $US74 a barrel Friday, up more than 6% last week and 66% from 2008’s close of $US44.60 a barrel.

489,000 and counting. That was the number of new cars traded for old, inefficient models under America’s cash for clunkers scheme that ends tonight, our time. The US Government now expects to spend close to $US2.5 billion, or more on the scheme and over half a million new cars will have been bought. The plan offered $US4,500 to trade in older cars and trucks for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. That will keep American car plants going strongly for the next couple of months. It will help lift growth, production and consumer spending and retail sales figures, but could also draw sales away from other retailers as similar schemes in Germany and France seem to be doing.

81 is the new death toll among American banks after four bit the dust on Saturday morning, our time, including Guaranty Bank of Texas, which became the country’s third biggest collapse this year (after the biggest a week ago). eBank of Atlanta was the first, then another Georgia bank, First Coweta, also failed (that makes 18 this year in Georgia alone in 2009 so far). Guaranty was announced next, then the fourth was CapitalSouth Bank in Alabama.

$US9 trillion is the new estimate for America’s cumulative budget deficits over the next 10 years (now that’s what I call and deficit spending, Mal and Joe). It’s up from the May estimate from the Obama Administration in May of $US7.1 trillion and will be made public Tuesday night in a new set of estimates from the White House.

15% is the unemployment rate in Michigan, and the number of US states with double digit unemployment rates. Michigan is one of the epicentres of the American recession with the state and its biggest city, Detroit, being struck by the twins blows of the subprime mortgage crunch, then the recession and the plunge in the car industry’s fortunes and rise in unemployment. Michigan has lost 280,000 jobs in the past year. Rhode Island followed with a jobless rate of 12.7%, Nevada was third with a rate of 12.5%, the District of Columbia also had a double-digit rate, of 10.6%, behind California with 11.9%.

Nevada has another unwanted honour: for the 31st consecutive month the state had America’s highest state foreclosure rate, with one in every 56 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in July — more than six times the national average.

2.1% is the fall in US beer imports (mostly from Mexico, Canada and Europe) in the year to July 12. According to Information Resources Inc, a Chicago-based researcher Americans have turned to local beer. Case sales of sub-premium domestic beers jumped 2.6% in the same period.

$US10 is the cost for a new web based application for iPhones and Blackberries called FlightCaster. It claims to be able to predict up to six hours when an American airline flight will be late. It’s only in the US at the moment — a sign that America’s renowned business drive seems undiminished by the GFC.

5,000,000 tonnes of steel was the figure for crude steel production in the US in July, up 15% from the 4.4 million tonnes produced in on June. Looking at that another way, July’s output was 41.6% lower than July 2008, while June. 4.4 million tonnes was 46.9% lower than June 2008. Every tonne helps.

35,200,000 was the number of Americans who moved in 2008 from 2007, the lowest number since 1962 when America’s population (currently just over 307 million), was around 120 million smaller. Was the reason for this low figure, the subprime mortgage crisis which was gathering pace in 2007-08 to become the credit crunch and then the recession? Or is there some deeper factor at work, such as Americans are becoming a more settled race of people?