Today's stories at the business wires covering this morning's disastrous durable goods report from the Census Bureau ranged from good to absolutely horrid. March orders only increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent, less than half of the 1.7 percent to 2.0 percent increase that was expected. Additionally, February's originally reported decline of 2.8 percent was revised down to -3.1 percent.
Victoria Stilwell's dispatch at Bloomberg News earned a B-minus. Lucia Mutikani's writeup at Reuters rated a C-minus. As usual, the coverage at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, delivered by Martin Crutsinger, the nation's unofficial "Worst Economics Writer," brought up the rear and earned an "F."
The government reported this morning that seasonally adjusted March housing starts and building permits fell by 8.8 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively, far worse declines than analysts and economists predicted.
After the report, the business wires at least communicated the facts accurately, but continued to insist almost to the point of editorializing that there's no reason to be worried about the long-term direction of housing market or the overall economy.
Today's report from the government on retail sales was awful — "unexpectedly" so, according to both Bloomberg and Reuters. Following on the heels of a 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted decline in January and a flat February, March sales fell by 0.3 percent.
Two of the three main U.S. business wire services blamed the American people, not the worst post-recession economy since World War II during the Obama administration — an economy which is clearly weakening even further — for these results.
For the past month, the conventional wisdom about the U.S. economy has been that consumer spending and "(not really) robust" job growth will continue to prop up the economy, even as weaknesses in manufacturing, trade and other areas continue to present problems. President Obama bragged in early March that the economy is "pretty darned good now."
Today, the first of those two pillars got pulled. The countless press reports during the past 4-1/2 weeks which reassured readers that consumer spending started off the year strong — conveniently during the peak presidential primary season — are now rubbish. Today, we learned that January's originally reported 0.5 percent spike, revised down to 0.1 percent, was almost entirely fictional, and that February was also weak. Despite the disappointing news, most press reports found some "expert" who, with little genuine basis, expects a rebound.
Actual sales at the wholesale level in January, as reported today by the Census Bureau, fell sharply from December. That's to be expected. But this time was different — really different, because the drop was to a level lower than January 2012, i.e., four years ago.
Four press outlets which covered today's release either missed (or ignored) this shocking news. They only told readers about what happened with the seasonally adjusted data — which, while still pretty dismal, didn't look quite as awful.
As has been its habit during the Obama administration when the economy turns in a poor performance, the press's coverage of yesterday's report on U.S. economic growth focused on how much better next quarter's news will supposedly be. Especially in this instance, the beat reporters and pundits should have looked at whether or not yesterday's initial result will hold up, or whether it's likely to be revised downward.
The government's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported yesterday that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent in last year's fourth quarter. That's bad enough, but statements published by a leading GDP prognosticator before the BEA's release, once applied to yesterday's data, foreshadow a distinct possilbity that February's or March's revision will come in with a minus sign preceding it.
Friday morning, the government reported that the economy grew at a pathetic annual rate of 0.7 percent in last year's final quarter.
As it did in covering the disappointing Christmas shopping season, the business press partially blamed yesterday's awful result on the weather, i.e., warm weather.
Reuters and reporter Lucia Mutikani went way overboard today in reacting to today's residential construction news from the Census Bureau.
Mutikani's headline contended that today's "housing data signals economic strength," while a section title claimed that there are "strong housing fundamentals." That can only possibly be true if one believes the world began in 2007.
Call it the triumph of the "new normal."
At Reuters today, after today's first revision of third-quarter gross domestic product showed that the economy grew by an annualized 2.1 percent, up from the late-October estimate of 1.5 percent, reporter Lucia Mutikani and Editor Paul Simao demonstrated that they have completely given in to the artificially lowered expectations of past seven miserable years. Despite the fact that annual growth in the U.S. economy averaged 3.4 percent from 1946-2007 — a period which included ten recessions — and that it has seen four-year spurts averaging over 4 percent several times in the past three decades, the Reuters pair claims that its "long-run potential" is now only 2 percent, thus making today's 2.1 percent result "respectable."
Gosh, this gets tiresome.
Once again, with one noteworthy exception, the business press's virtually blind acceptance of seasonally adjusted economic data, and its accompanying refusal to look at the underlying raw data, led it to paint a deceptive picture of an important element of the economy. This time, it was existing home sales for October. The seasonally adjusted annual rate for October reported by the National Association of Realtors this morning is almost 4 percent higher than seen in October 2014. The trouble is, the raw sales data show an increase of less than 1 percent.
On Thursday, the government reported that the nation's economy turned in yet another quarter of poor economic performance, estimating that its gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 1.5 percent in the third quarter.
The business press almost universally downplayed the news, and told readers that the fourth quarter will be better. No one talked about how much the tepid growth of the past six-plus years since the recession officially ended has been sacrificed in the name of misguided and dangerous Keynesian stimulus. As is so often the case, an editorial at Investor's Business Daily did that, performing a job the press has consistently refused to do.
The government's Personal Income and Outlays report for September bore more evidence of a slowing economy. Consumer spending rose by only 0.1 percent, trailing expectations of 0.2 percent. That's troubling news, given that the optimists believe that strong consumer spending will supposedly drive stronger fourth-quarter economic growth.
Lucia Mutikani's coverage at Reuters made a common error in explaining the importance of consumer spending, made a significant technical error in describing the report's contents, and ignored a very disturbing item present in the government report's detail (related items are tagged ,  and , respectively, in the excerpt following the jump; bolds are mine):