Who Is Surprised by Economic Data? (part II)

This is the second time I have asked this question in recent weeks:

Factory orders in surprise decline (CNN Money)    http://money.cnn.com/2008/03/26/news/economy/durable_goods/index.htm?postversion=2008032609

Durable-Goods Orders Decline (WSJ)
for expensive goods fell 1.7% in February, an unexpected decline, while
a barometer of capital spending by businesses tumbled 2.6%, a second
straight drop.  8:34 a.m.

Durable Goods Orders in U.S. Unexpectedly Decline as Machinery Plummets (Bloomberg)
Orders for U.S. durable goods
unexpectedly fell in February, led by the biggest slump ever in
demand for machinery that indicates companies are becoming more
reluctant to invest as the economy heads into a recession.

Durable goods orders slip unexpectedly Reuters
New orders for long-lasting U.S.-made manufactured goods unexpectedly
fell 1.7 percent during February and a key gauge of companies’ appetite
for investment also shrank, according to data on Wednesday that will
reinforce concern the economy has chilled.

Really, WhoTF is surprised by weak economic data — other than clueless cheerleaders? And why do headline writers keep using that phrase . . . ?


Who Are These People Surprised by Economic Data?    http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2008/02/who-are-these-p.html

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Stuart commented on Mar 26

    David Malpass perhaps? LOL

  2. hal commented on Mar 26

    some are lazy, some are stupid, some are ethically challenged.

  3. attobuoy commented on Mar 26

    Vizzini: “Inconceivable!”

    Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  4. rw commented on Mar 26

    Dismay at this stuff is unwarranted. It has never been different.

  5. larster commented on Mar 26

    What you have is fewer and fewer reporters filling more and more lines. To survive they use lines from press releaqses, other publications, etc. There is no research because there is no time. Couple that with the Kudlow’s and money honeys on cable and the BS flows unchecked. With the avg person reading less and less we are set up for individual investor disaster, as the scammers have a wide advantage in this environment.

  6. Anthony commented on Mar 26

    Barry I have been railing on about the same thing, as did Mish recently at his blog (Global Economic Trend Analysis)
    But I think the answer is that it is the governments own projections, vs. their actual reports. They set it up like this, and then the stenographers and the AP, UPI, etc. have to use the word “unexpected” because they were basically told otherwise. Asinine? At the least. I think it is both bad journalism and another symptom of a broken system – at all levels.

  7. D. commented on Mar 26

    Just-in-Time Reporting.

    No different from the rest of our system.

  8. bluestatedon commented on Mar 26

    Barry, you’re reading my mind. I just saw this Reuters item on MSN.money: NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks opened lower on Wednesday as unexpectedly weak durable goods data reinforced concerns about a weakening economy.”

    I understand that news organizations have pared back their staffs greatly over the last decade as they shift to a news-as-revenue-producing-entertainment model. However, the factual information about the economy is so easily obtained from no more than 5 minutes of investigation on the internet that I can only conclude that the “journalists” who are so constantly “surprised” by the economic news don’t actually bother going on the internet. They write the cheerleading drivel that their corporate bosses tell them to write, and then it’s off to lunch.

  9. Stuart commented on Mar 26

    Brian Wesbury. His Q2 GDP forecast must be up to 5% by now…LOL

    Larster, add to that authoritarian free enterprise and you’ve pretty much got the whole stew.

  10. Nihilism commented on Mar 26

    It is time to stand behind our markets and wall street crooks & spin-docs! Forget the economic reality, general Benny is doing a fine job as the quarter comes to close.

    Let us show to the world that quarter-end is around the corner and no matter what our diffrences — bulls or bears — everyone must show solidarity and support this market for next 3 business days! Once the fees are taken out for money mgmt firms, we go back our old ways.


  11. Anthony commented on Mar 26

    “Dismay at this stuff is unwarranted. It has never been different.”

    That just isn’t true – it is getting worse.

  12. cinefoz commented on Mar 26

    I agree that the word ‘surprise’ is a reflection of questionable effort.

    Anybody with a brain should remember that February was a pretty bad month. Credit markets were seizing. The stock market was beyond dismal. News stories were predicting bad times for all, possibly forever. Nobody in their right mind would spend big in that environment (Hint: credit collapse fanatics … this is only a light intro to what you would see by allowing your cleansing purge.)

    This is another excellent example of lazy reporter syndrome.

    The proof of if this is a trend or a bottom will be what happens in March and April. I suppose nobody mentioned this anywhere.

  13. rw commented on Mar 26

    “That just isn’t true – it is getting worse”.

    The present always feel worse. The past always feels better.

  14. Mr. Obvious commented on Mar 26

    Personally, I like the positive housing news out today:

    [BRIEFING.COM] Stocks have pulled off their lows after positive new home sales data hit the wires.

    February new home sales totaled 590,000, which is better than the 578,000 consensus forecast. January’s initial reading of 588,000 was revised higher to 601,000.

    New home sales slipped 1.8% month-over-month. Economists, on average, estimated sales would fall 1.7% month-over-month after January’s downturn. January’s new home sales initially reflected a 2.8% dip, but were revised higher to a 1.6% downturn.

  15. Carmen commented on Mar 26

    The recession started in 4Q2007. The sales tax revenues for all the states combined declined 2.44% for that quarter compared to 4Q2006. That is a steep decline. This is a consumer led recession. Waiting for the Census Bureau to confirm that figure. Also the NBER should declare this recession within the next 3 months. A surprise would be if they don’t.

  16. Uncle Jeffy commented on Mar 26

    “…clueless cheerleaders” – insert first term before “headline writers”

    My work here is done…

  17. Lawrence Yun commented on Mar 26

    Housing will appreciate at 20% or better for the foreseeable future. Buy a house now, or you’ll never get in.

    Don’t believe me?

    Check my creds.

  18. michael schumacher commented on Mar 26

    Hank needs to STFU……

    How anyone would give him ANY credibility is beyond rationale thought..

    Please Hank STFU already…


  19. Stormrunner commented on Mar 26


    Forecast was for a .8 increase, so if you do not lean toward the conspiritorial, and believe the Census Bureau, surprise would still be appropriate, not under researched.

    Common sense supports obviously a different view, but the MSM is predisposed to report the “facts” as released, even the doctored ones. At this point things are slipping at a rate teetering on chaos, the Gov – MSM is in the business of crowd control.

    Thanks Barry for an alternate source of information.

  20. Douglas Watts commented on Mar 26

    I’m surprised at Barry’s unexpected non-optimism.

    Shocked, really.

  21. Blutskralle commented on Mar 26

    I’m primarily surprised we can still afford to produce economic data.

  22. Gary commented on Mar 26

    I can’t complain too much about the reporting. It’s “unexpected” in relation to the consenus of economists.

    Perhaps the headline should read “Bonehead Economists Still Don’t Get It And Continue to Underpredict the Recession.”

  23. Pat G. commented on Mar 26

    The perfect trifecta: durable goods and new home sales were weaker than “expected” and there was a bigger draw in crude oil, gasoline and distillates. Fundamentally, nothing has changed. Let’s see where the markets close.

  24. michael schumacher commented on Mar 26

    Funny how the “unexpected drawdown in crude” happens to coincide with the amount of canceled contracts from last week……

    Oh and ACTUAL oil inventories are still at 12 year highs…..

    They continue to let the NYMEX rape and pillage under the guise of free market.


  25. Mel commented on Mar 26

    If you watched “The Wire” this season, you understand the new media.

  26. lurker commented on Mar 26

    Blut-no worries mate! we are outsourcing the good economic news to conserve cash!

  27. michael schumacher commented on Mar 26


    IMO there is no one who is more responsible for this mess than Hank.

    No one else was on both sides as he is and has been.

    There should be a rule that says if you worked on wall st. you are not eligible for ANY cabinet level position EVER.

    That he has not been dressed down, in public, for being part and parcel to this mess is just shocking. Just as bad as Hillary’s plan to let Greenspan “fix” his contribution to the mess.

    The only thing I see “unexpected” is that these people are still in charge…..but what can you do when the inmates have the keys to the jail ( as I mentioned in March ’06 when Hanky-poo got the keys delivered to him on a gold platter)

    That not a single Senator or congress man/woman has presented a bill to impeach these people is really disappointing……

    What is going to wake people up????


  28. Neal commented on Mar 26

    I was surprised by the unexpected appearance of a blazing fire-ball in the sky around 7am. Still haven’t seen anything on the news about it, though. A friend of mine said that there is a chance it will disappear about 7 pm. I’ll check the 10 pm news to see if there is any news. I’ll let you know.

  29. BDG123 commented on Mar 26

    It’s not just the NYMEX. The LME is just as bad. Hedge funds and trading desks at banks are bamboozling everyone. Not only is oil at 12 year highs but now so is gasoline. One reason why Valero’s margins are TANKING and refineries aren’t running any where near capacity. This whole cycle has been based on Wall Street scams and schemes.

  30. Jerome Kerviel commented on Mar 26

    Moi…. I’m surprised that gold,oil and silver are still going up in spite of the strong stock and housing markets and the fantaxtix T-bill rates where I could invest my savings. Maybe I should start reading USA today to learn about finance…..

  31. bluestatedon commented on Mar 26

    In other news:

    Speaking from his hospital bed, multiple amputee Billy Ray Mullett of South Dogslobber, Arkansas expressed “surprise” that his home meth lab exploded during an impromptu July 4 fireworks celebration in his living room. “Heck, who could have predicted that lighting an M-80 could set off the fumes in the kitchen? It was entirely unexpected.”

  32. Moon commented on Mar 26

    They being dimwits are probably suprised. After all Cramer says its O.K. and we all know that the toxic waste is contained. right?

    Moving into serious short mode….

  33. Eric commented on Mar 26

    Thank goodness for those that get surprised by this data…my brokerage statements are printing all time highs on a daily basis…the Jerry Bowyer’s, Jim Cramer’s, Larry Kudlow’s, Dennis Kneales’ and Will Farrell’s of the world are allowing educated people to make an absolute killing on this tape.

  34. michael schumacher commented on Mar 26


    gloating a bit perhaps??

    we’ll see how that strategy plays out over the next year……

    I hope you have some cardboard boxes to make a “killer” house with.



  35. Evan Myquest commented on Mar 26

    Thank God for Tero and Rev on Realmoney is all I can say. ~mikey

  36. B.B. commented on Mar 26

    I agree that the word ‘surprise’ is a reflection of questionable effort.

    Anybody with a brain should remember that February was a pretty bad month. Credit markets were seizing. The stock market was beyond dismal. News stories were predicting bad times for all, possibly forever. Nobody in their right mind would spend big in that environment (Hint: credit collapse fanatics … this is only a light intro to what you would see by allowing your cleansing purge.)

    This is another excellent example of lazy reporter syndrome.

    The proof of if this is a trend or a bottom will be what happens in March and April. I suppose nobody mentioned this anywhere.

    Posted by: cinefoz | Mar 26, 2008 10:14:41 AM

    Let me think about this… Cinefoz, was bottom calling all thru February and going long with his every last penny, “but yet anyone with 1/2 brain knew things were terrible…” well I guess you have come full circle now Cine. Even you know you are an idiot now… Have a good day.. :)

    This guy is always good for a laugh everyday..

  37. william commented on Mar 26

    in other news… the market sells off in an “expected” reaction

  38. Paul Goodman commented on Mar 26

    I understand that Kim Jung Il is “surprised” by North Korea’s economic numbers as well.

  39. Francois commented on Mar 26

    If you remove the word “unexpected” from these headlines, they look almost reasonable.

  40. rex commented on Mar 26

    I’m dismayed, but not surprised at the level of ignorance about these matters. I am surprised that a guy like Barry, who really seems to understand numbers, continues to play to the ignorant crowd with posts like this.
    Briefly, let me explain a few facts, based on more than a dozen years covering this stuff.
    1) The decline was “unexpected” because dozens of economists who do this for a living crunched a lot of numbers, especially including the really really nice order book reported by Boeing for February. Given that orders had plunged in January, these economists concluded that a bounceback was reasonable and that total orders would be up slightly. They do not forecast durable goods orders based primarily on their view of the economy for the next year. That would be like predicting that every single stock in the S&P 500 would go down every single second during a bear market. (“What kind of clueless dimwit cheerleader government lackey thinks stocks will go up in a bear market!!! PPT!! MSM!!! Drool Drool Drool”) Even in down markets or recessions, the individual data points are volatile (that means sometimes they go up and sometimes they go down). For instance, in the recession of 2001, durable goods orders went up by 4.8% in May, and by 5.1% in October. DURING A RECESSION, THEY WENT UP. Do you think the economists who predicted those numbers during a recession were “dimwits” or “clueless cheerleaders” or “lazy reporters” or “not in their right mind”?
    2) The expectations are not produced by the government, or the evil MSM but by economists who try to get the numbers right (Their clients want good information, not spin.)
    3) The big surprise (yes surprise!!!) came from an astonishing 13% drop in orders for machinery, which have been going gangbusters because of all the exports (they were up 17% year over year in January). Without that decline in February (which no one seems to be able to explain adequately), orders were actually up during the month.
    4) Predicting economic data points is not like predicting the sun will come up tomorrow. Anyone who makes that metaphor should go back to bed for a long long nap.

  41. agent00yak commented on Mar 26

    Rex, I second your comment. Barry sometimes has some very good analysis. I forget this because after I see posts like the one above I stop reading the blog when I can find more objective analysis elsewhere. (And then another really good post from this blog will catch my eye when a friend shares it on their reader)

  42. JustinTheSkeptic commented on Mar 26

    I’m surprised that they are surprised, but I’m not surprised by there disingenuousness. Snake-oil salesmen, look like saints when compared to these guys. And I am starting to believe that transparency is just another form of obfuscation, when it pertains to the financial world.

  43. Darkness commented on Mar 26

    >Oh and ACTUAL oil inventories are still at 12 year highs….. Posted by: michael schumacher

    By the only measure that matters, Days of Supply, oil inventories are NOT at their highest, unless you assigned Yun the job of data analysis.


    Current days of supply: 21.5 Last year this time: 22.2 We aren’t even at a one-year high. What are you smoking?

  44. michael schumacher commented on Mar 27

    Of course how silly of me to ONLY look at .gov sites to get my information…

    If you believe anything put out by .gov then I have some oil I can sell you since we’re at all time lows according to your precious .gov site.

    Wanna buy some oil???

    Thought not.


  45. cliffynator commented on Apr 3

    Hey Barry, I don’t know if you get updates on old posts…
    But I’m listening to a podcast of Steve Pomeranz’s “On The Money”, and he just mentioned your name and this post in his own commentary. I felt I had to let you know in case you hadn’t heard.

    What’s better, I happened to have your blog up when he said it! Nice.

    Keep up the great work, Barry!

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