Nobody knows whether the economy has finally hit bottom, but Wall Street investors’ money suggested Friday that it has.

By the end of last week, all of the major financial indices (Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500) reached their highest levels since the first week of October.

That optimism was driven by comments made by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve System, at the Federal Reserve Bank-Kansas City Annual Economic Symposium on Friday.

Bernanke suggested the economy is beginning to emerge from the most severe global financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“Although we have avoided the worst, difficult challenges still lie ahead,” Bernanke said. “We must work together to build on the gains already made to secure a sustained economic recovery, as well as to build a new financial regulatory framework that will reflect the lessons of this crisis and prevent a recurrence of the events of the past two years.”

In other words, the road to recovery, if it has indeed begun, promises to be lengthy.

Even with the struggling economy, market analysts with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association observed Friday, “The year-to-date comprehensive boxed beef sales is 242,659 loads, which is 100.2% of a year ago and up 15.4% over the five-year average.”