Headlines versus Underlying Data

Friday, December 02, 2005 | 10:43 AM

I sometimes think I live in a different planet than some people. My friend Cody, for instance, lives in a very different economic world than I: Both are real, yet both have very different connotations.

Call it the Headline versus the Underlying Data interpretation difference.

Examples: This week's headline data was very optimistic: holiday sales up 22%, Durable Goods very strong; new home sales plus 13%, GDP revised to a huge 4.3%, Core inflation mild, Non Farm payroll plus 215k.

The below-the-headline data dump was far less encouraging: Retail sales data was mixed, huge promotional pricing will likely pressure margins. New home sales data was less than the margin of error and according to Census Bureau Statisticians, was statistically insignificant; Regardless, history shows double digit Monthly New Home Sales gains are followed by negative growth next month.

Then there's Durable Goods. This week, Morgan Stanley's Steven Roach reported from China that US officials are pressuring the Chinese to buy more US goods -- so the easiest way to do that is Boeings Jetliners. Lo & Behold, Boeing has a few big sales to China. Outside of this political pressure, the rest of the Durable Goods numbers was disappointing.

We've already discussed the absurdity of relying on only those items not going up in price as a measure of inflation. That's before I mention $500 plus Gold, and the nearly inverted yield curve. Oh, and has anyone noticed that the Fed is tightening?

Non Farm Payroll was not bad. Slightly below consensus, and still laden with lots of construction jobs and low paying fast food positions. Trailing 3 month aveage is 92k per month.

As to GDP, we saw consumer consumption hit an all time high as a percentage of GDP. That's thanks to borrowing and spending -- not actual production. If you think debt-laden spending is a sign of a healthy economy, well, sold to you.

The bottom line is that those who believe in variant perception are being given an opportunity to prove they eat their own cooking. The disconnect between the headlines and the underlying data is big and getting bigger. CNBC does a great job at providing the backbeat to the dance.

And that spells opportunity some time in the not too distant future . . .


UPDATE December 2, 2005 2:57pm

The very political perma-optimist Brian Wesbury is in today's WSJ, bemoaning the Pouting Pundits of Pessimism

Friday, December 02, 2005 | 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
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But within the job numbers the index of hours worked fell so that despite a nice increase in average hourly earnings average weekly earnings fell in nominal terms.

Posted by: spencer | Dec 2, 2005 11:04:05 AM

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