This Week’s Economic Exaggerations…Er, Data

Numbers Lie



In the week ending December 8, the advance figure for  seasonally adjusted initial claims was 343,000, a decrease of 29,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 372,000. The 4-week moving average was 381,500, a decrease of 27,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 408,500.

Let’s have a peek at the big table….

Uh…… +683,477?


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Retail Trade: Uh, Where’s The Sales?

This doesn’t look so good…

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for November, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $412.4 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month and 3.7 percent (±0.7%) above November 2011. Total sales for the September through November 2012 period were up 4.3 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The September to October 2012 percent change was unrevised from -0.3 percent (±0.2%).

I don’t like this number much, albeit the headline number looks ok.


It’s all autos — ex-autos the number was flat.

The bigger issue is that food and bevereage and general merchandise (think “department stores”) were both down, with the latter down 0.9% monthly.  November includes Black Friday!

Online’s share continued to increase, however.  I guess if there’s a “bright spot” it’s there.

Note that without seasonal adjustment the figures for general merchandise were up, but they darn well better be given the “start of the holiday season.”

My overall take?  Shrug.

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The Producer Price Index for finished goods fell 0.8 percent in November, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Prices for finished goods decreased 0.2 percent in October and rose 1.1 percent in September. At the earlier stages of processing, prices received by manufacturers of intermediate goods declined 1.2 percent in November, and the crude goods index edged up 0.1 percent. On an unadjusted basis, the finished goods index advanced 1.5 percent for the 12 months ended November 2012, the smallest increase since a 0.5-percent rise for the 12 months ended July 2012. (See table A.)

Ah, a look inside tells the tale — the bottom line is that it’s all energy.  Foods were up 1.%; ex-food and energy the index was up 0.1%, or basically flat.

Of course nobody actually eats anything, right?

Within the internals trend shifts are evident in energy prices, which is good (they’re coming down) but the paradox is that this usually signals internal economic weakness.

The interesting internal trend here is the compression of margins in the food category, which now has been going on since July.  This too is an indicator of economic weakness.

There’s nothing that stands out in this report, other than those two markers — but they are simply further confirmation of the regional fed indices that I’ve been warning about since the summer.

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