NEW YORK — Europe appears on the brink of another recession. Islamic militants have seized Iraqi territory. Russian troops have massed on the Ukraine border, and the resulting sanctions are disrupting trade. An Ebola outbreak in Africa and Israel’s war in Gaza are contributing to the gloom.
It’s been a grim summer in much of the world. Yet investors in the United States have largely shrugged it off — so far at least.
A big reason is that five years after the Great Recession officially ended, the US economy is showing a strength and durability that other major nations can only envy. Thanks in part to the Federal Reserve’s ultra-low interest rates, employers have ramped up hiring, factories have boosted production, and businesses have been making money.
All of this has cushioned the US economy from the economic damage abroad. And investors have responded by keeping US stocks near all-time highs. Not even reports Friday of a Ukrainian attack on Russian military vehicles unnerved investors for long, with blue chip stocks regaining nearly all their midday losses by the close.
‘‘We’re in a much better place psychologically,’’ says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. ‘‘And it’s allowing us to weather the geopolitical threats much more gracefully.’’
Still, the global turmoil comes at a delicate time.
It might not take much — an oil-price spike, a prolonged recession in Europe, a plunge in business or consumer confidence — to derail the global economy.
Here’s a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the US economy and others, and why the calm in markets may or may not last:
More jobs. Hiring in the United States has surged in the first seven months of this year.
Monthly job gains are averaging a solid and steady 230,000, based on government figures. That’s roughly an average of 35,000 more jobs each month compared with last year.
Fewer people are applying for unemployment benefits. And fewer new hires are working as temps. Both trends suggest stronger job security.
Economists say the cumulative effect of all those additional paychecks should propel growth and help insulate the US economy from trouble abroad.
Zandi expects monthly job growth to accelerate to an average of 275,000 sometime next year.
Record profits. Earnings at companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index are on track to jump 10 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to S&P Capital IQ, a research firm. That would be the biggest quarterly gain in nearly three years.
That news has helped the S&P 500 index climb nearly 6 percent this year, extending a bull market into its sixth year. The gains have been remarkably steady, too.
Christine Short, a director at S&P Capital IQ, worries that more grim news from abroad could send US stocks tumbling. ‘‘Markets are ripe for correction,’’ she says. ‘‘The only question is, What is the catalyst?’’
Help from central banks. The Fed has been paring its pace of bond purchases and will end them altogether this fall. The purchases have been intended to hold down longer-term rates and prod consumers and businesses to borrow and spend. But the Fed has stressed that it will keep short-term rates at low levels even if unemployment reaches a level usually linked to rising inflation.
Before raising rates, the Fed wants to see ‘‘the whites of the eyes of a real recovery and wage growth,’’ says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.
Foreign exposure. Though the US economy has managed so far to withstand the economic and geopolitical turmoil abroad, it isn’t immune to it.
And the bad news kept coming this past week.
The 18-country eurozone, a key region that emerged from recession last year and accounts for nearly a fifth of global output, failed to grow at all in the second quarter of the year. ‘‘The European recovery is faltering,’’ says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.
Escalating tension between the West and Russia isn’t helping. Exports from the eurozone to Russia account for less than 1 percent of the region’s economic output. But Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is vulnerable.
Oil spikes. Will fighting in Iraq and Ukraine upend global energy markets, and raise the cost of filling your gas tank and heating your home?
Europe is worried because it gets much of its natural gas from Russia. And Iraq is the second-biggest OPEC oil producer. Before dropping last month, crude oil prices hit a 10-month high in June on news of victories by Islamic State fighters.
In the United States, gasoline is averaging $3.47 a gallon, according to AAA. That’s down 7 cents from last year.
But the benefits of cheaper gas could be erased if supplies were disrupted. Consumers would be hit by what economists consider the equivalent of a tax increase.