It may be a cliche, but it's true that the stock marketisn't the economy. Values fluctuate based on aseemingly infinite number of variables, from the real (earnings) tothe intangible (sentiment). So even though U.S. equities arenear all-time highs, thatisn't necessarily a sign that all is well with corporateAmerica.

One sign that executives may not be all that confident in theoutlook is the market for commercial paper. Even with a slightpullback the last two weeks, companies have been issuing theseshort-term corporate IOUs at pace not seen since 2011. The amountoutstanding has jumped from $1.05 trillion at the start of the yearto as much as $1.16 trillion earlier this month, according to theFederal Reserve. Although the amount eased back to $1.14 trillionin the latest weekly data that was released last week, that's stillmore than at any time in the past eight years.

Few markets are as opaque as the one for commercial paper, whichtypically matures anywhere from 15 days to nine months after it'sissued, and it's never exactly clear why it expands or contracts.But it's hard not to interpret this latest jump as a down-arrow forthe economy. It's a signal that companies may not have theconfidence to commit to long-term loans or issue bonds,and instead want to wait out the uncertainty with shorter-termfunding.

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