We live in an age where bad economic news is not only unwelcome, but it is routinely overlooked or excused. On the other hand, good news is spotted and trumpeted even when it doesn’t exist. An ideal illustration of this dangerous tendency towards collective selectivity came last week when the markets and the media somehow turned an awful employment report into an ideal data set that confirmed all optimism and contained nothing but good news for investors. In truth, it was anything but.
There can be little doubt that data releases rather than experience or intuition are driving the economic conversation. This is perhaps a function of the disconnection that many people feel about an economy that they no longer understand. Rather than trusting their own eyes or their own gut to form an opinion, it’s much easier to grab a set of convenient numbers. The big question then becomes what numbers you choose to look at and which you choose to ignore.
While there are a great many types of economic data releases, issued by a myriad of public and private sources, two reports have risen above the rest in importance: the