There's no point to this economic data!


There was news out this morning about America's economic health, but there was no point to any of it, or so I conclude, having learned from Harry Nilsson's 1971 film The Point , that "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all." It is true that economy delights in sending mixed messages. It often says nothing comprehensible, but it rarely does so as emphatically as it did this morning. Consider the following headlines.

First, from Bloomberg: U.S. Consumer Spending Falls for First Time in Six Months .

Second, from Reuters: U.S. consumer sentiment rises in final August reading .

Not only were these stories published only about an hour apart, but both are entirely accurate. In fact, each outlet had access to and reported on - at least to some extent - the data the other outlet chose to emphasize.

The Bloomberg story emphasizes that the fall in consumer spending in July was totally unexpected, and that it was bad news for retailers, but the story goes on to report: "The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final sentiment index rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 80 after a preliminary August reading of 79.2."

Reuters, focusing on the August survey results, merely alludes to July's unexpected spending decline, quoting the survey's director Richard Curtin saying, "Consumer confidence rebounded in late August." What readers may not know is that the negative numbers we are now supposedly rebounding from were also released just this morning.

I conclude that there is no conclusion to be drawn from this, but that everyone is going to draw one anyway. So, take your pick, good economy or bad? One is justified as easily as the other.

Julian Close has been a business writer since the first day of the twenty-first century, having written for PRA International and the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping. He graduated from Davidson College in 1993 and received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Mary Baldwin College in 2011. He became a stockbroker in 1993, but now works for Fresh Brewed Media and uses his powers only for good. You can see closing trades for all Julian's long and short positions and track his long term performance via twitter: @JulianClose_MIC .

This article was originally published on

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Economy

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