Varied data suggest the economy is healing
But fiscal cliff is still a potentially major threat
American consumers are growing more confident about the job market, companies are ordering more equipment and home prices are rising in most major cities. The latest batch of government data suggests that the economy is improving just as the holiday shopping season begins. The only threat is a package of huge spending cuts and tax increases, known as the ‘‘fiscal cliff,’’ that will kick in unless Congress strikes a budget deal by year’s end.