Ignorance is bliss, particularly when it comes to US government economic data. The latest bad joke occurred this morning when the US Census Bureau said retail sales rose 0.8% in March.
And the financial press reported that 0.8% sales increase as gospel showing once again how totally ignorant the media is when it comes to reporting economic numbers put out by the US government. The AP headline was that US retail sales in March rose 0.8%, helped by job gains. The Wall Street Journal online site reported not only that U.S. retail sales rose 0.8% in March, but also that Americans spent more on autos.
Really? This is garbage reporting of the worst sort. Why? Well first let us look at the actual Census Bureau press release, which is entitled Advanced Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services March 2012. Lower down the press release explains that the advance estimates are based on a subsample of the Census Bureau’s full retail and food services sample.
What is a subsample? Would you believe in this broadband world that what is reported as a hard fact by the financial media morons, is based upon a mailed, snail mail, survey to 5,000 retailers and the mailed back response?
Let’s see, the US Census Bureau mails surveys to a mere 5,000 retailers and from the responses mailed back guesses at the fraction of a percent change in month to month retail activity. Wow! One would think that the Census people never heard of credit, debit and cash cards. Actual cash is much less than 10% of sales these days and I would rather have all the credit and debit card data than a survey of 5,000 outfits, wouldn’t you? Believe it or not, Master Card and Visa sell their data to the public and I am sure all would give summary data to the government, if asked.
But no, the US government agencies, which also include the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in their infinite wisdom ignore available real time data. And what is even more unbelievable is that no one in the financial media – except us that I am aware of – is saying that this data is a bad joke!
The Wall Street Journal online today reported that March retail sales were up in part due to car sales. Car sales? March car sales were reported to be running at just over 14 million annualized, down around 6% from a February sales rate of 15 million. Yet the advanced census bureau estimate showed auto sales rose 1.1% in March? One would think that someone would have said, wait a second, how can the actual new car sales rate be down while the Census Bureau is reporting higher revenues from new vehicle sales?
My solution is very simple. Fire all the government economists and disband the BLS, BEA and Census Bureau. Instead hire me and give me enough clout to get real time data from master card, visa and all the plastic folk and I tell you what the consumer is doing in real time. Also if I was allowed to mine the withheld income and employment taxes sent daily to the US Treasury I could tell you how many people are working and how much they are making in real time.
But no, the government reports garbage and the morons in the financial media report that garbage as hard facts! The fault is not really with the reporters. Rather it is their editors who are to blame.
The globe is in a real time mess. Global trading is in real time. Yet, the financial markets trade in real time data on the US economy that is based upon surveys and guesses. Am I missing something, or is this just plain nuts?
President & CEO TrimTabs Investment Research
Portfolio Manager, TrimTabs Float Shrink ETF (TTFS)
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