Five reasons for economic optimism

The nation is still in the grips of a pronounced recession, and sometimes it's hard to detect bright spots amid the crush of news of layoffs and home foreclosures. Still, positives are starting to build up in the U.S. economy, and listed below are five that investors should note.

1) Q1 earnings season: So far, the first quarter has not been the disaster that many analysts had feared. Of the roughly 230 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, about 65 percent have exceeded Wall Street's estimates, or "beat expectations." That's encouraging.