Tag Archives: Economics reporting
Marek Fuchs of TheStreet.com points out that the business media have begun writing about the housing market as if it’s about to turn around when that may not be the case.
Fuchs wrote, “The Business Press Maven is always highly critical of the business media for allowing a pattern of three to qualify as a trend. But apparently now two can do the deed. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes blipped up 0.6% in November, following a 0.5% increase in October.
“How did those modest little facts play?
“In its lead, the Associated Press declared that ‘the worst of the downturn for the battered housing market may be over.’ Lower down, it hedges, mentioning those ever-present and always plural ‘analysts’ who say that ‘this year’s slide in housing is starting to bottom out.’ The Business Press Maven seconds that with his first-ever ironclad guarantee. After all, with today being the last business day of the year, the housing market doesn’t have too much longer to slide in 2006.
“Reuters also ushers in a new era of stability, at least on paper (or, more accurately, in pixels), with what passes as reason: Wall Street was wrong, so it is right. ‘The National Association of Realtors said the pace of existing home sales rose 0.6 percent in November to a 6.28 million-unit annual rate, defying Wall Street forecasts for sales to ease slightly and providing the latest suggestion that housing activity was stabilizing after a steep drop.’ The AP even adds vestiges of housing-market insanity, disguised as a qualifier: ‘However, [analysts] cautioned not to expect a sharp rebound.’
“Even the 800-pound gorilla of conventional thought, The Wall Street Journal, got in on the revival act right there in a headline: ‘Home Sales Bode Well for Big Picture: Second Consecutive Rise Points to Limited Fallout From Market Slump in 2007.’ By only the fifth paragraph, we are in the thick of an imaginary scenario: ‘If the housing slump is indeed bottoming out and starts to reverse itself in the months ahead, it would…’
Read more here.
The Big Picture blog noted that with retail sales lackluster this shopping season, the coverage was even more disappointing.
It wrote, “There were all too many column inches that merely repeated Industry press releases; At the same time, there was a surprising dearth of skepticism. Otherwise respectable media morphed into mere dictation machines. Retail reporting took on the air of relentless cheerleading, as shopping became a competitive sport.
“One would imagine that breathless accounts of 19% year-over-year gains (wrong again), combined with a god-awful track record of hype and inaccurate forecasts from the same specific industry sources would raise a few eyebrows amongst the more senior editors. That apparently happened rather infrequently.
“Some of the more egregious errors we witnessed were:
â€¢ Surveys of consumers (NRF) expected shopping budgets were reported as actual retail sales;
â€¢ Foot traffic (Shopper-trac) was extrapolated to actual sales reciepts; This was reported (for the most part) w/o qualifying the estimated nature of this calculation;
â€¢ Credit card gains were reported as total sales gains;
â€¢ The distinction between Mall Stores, Discounters, and Specialty stores numbers were often left ambiguous. Relative size of these different retail outlets was typically omitted;
“Given the obvious agendas that various industry trade groups have in promoting a ‘feel good shopping environment,’ one would have hoped that there would be more fact checking and verification, and less stenography. Apparently, fact checking is a decreasingly important priority.”
Read more here.
Noel Sheppard writes on the NewsBusters web site that the television news shows recently downplayed or simply didn’t report strong housing data that shows that the market may not be headed toward a bubble busting.
Sheppard wrote, “Surprisingly strong data about the nationâ€™s residential real estate market was released on November 30 by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Despite the mediaâ€™s fascination with what it proclaimed over five years ago was a housing bubble, no TV network other than CNBC bothered to share the good news with its viewers.
“But disappointing data from other government agencies and the National Association of Realtors has typically been given a lot of air time. NBCâ€™s Brian Williams declared on September 25, ‘[T]he housing bubble has indeed and officially deflated.’ A month later, CBSâ€™s Katie Couric proclaimed that housing ‘prices are dropping like a rock.’ And, a day before this OFHEO report was released, CNNâ€™s Ali Veshi warned viewers, ‘[Y]our house is not gonna be the most expensive thing or the most valuable thing you own.’
“Given all this attention to real estate prices, it seems impossible to believe that none of these networks cared about the most recent comprehensive report concerning the nationâ€™s housing picture which stated, ‘Nationally, home prices were 7.73 percent higher in the third quarter of 2006 than they were one year earlier.’ Contrary to data from the realtors about existing home sales or the government reports about new ones, the quarterly OFHEO study indicated that every state except Michigan has seen average home prices increase since the third quarter of 2005.”
Later, Sheppard noted, “Surprisingly, the already referenced New York Times article nicely put all of this in its proper perspective: ‘The weakness in housing appears to be more muted and gradual than many had predicted.’ The only question remaining is when the television media will recognize that real estate is actually doing much better than they are reporting.”
Read more here.
Fox business anchor Neil Cavuto notes that Christmas sales have been strong, yet he wonders why so many in the media have been ignoring the big boost and focusing instead on Wal-Mart’s weak sales.
Cavuto stated, “That’s 140 million shoppers, spending on average slightly more than $360. A lot more than the $302 they spent last year.
“As I said, about 19 percent more. Again, it is a big number. But apparently to much of the media, it’s not a big deal.
“More talk about how Wal-Mart disappointed. Not much talk about how almost everyone else did not. I have a theory on that.
“Frankly, Wal-Mart’s been bashed in the press so much, I’m surprised anyone’s showing up there. Still, its stores were busy too.
“But most who report on this stuff were busier reporting what stinks, not what soars.
“Stuff like flat screen TVs, big. Electronic toys, big. Toys of all sorts, big. Cheap shoppers, not big.
“I know it’s still early. Certainly too early to say things will be great.
“But also way, way too early to say they won’t.”
Read more here. Funny, but my impression of the media coverage of the Christmas shopping season so far has been that everybody is saying that sales will be great.
The Street.com’s Marek Fuchs is still wondering why all of the Black Friday coverage of the Christmas shopping season is focusing on sales and not what really matters to these retailers — profits.
Fuchs wrote, “Please hold The Business Press Maven’s guiding hand for a moment here so he can walk you through the confusion of post Black Friday coverage. Not only is it confused, but the only factor that really matters — profitability — barely gets a mention.
“Any investor who ever chases after the reporting of top line numbers without considering what role discounts played and what, if anything, will fall to the bottom line leaves their flank exposed, big time. That’s why even before we start sorting this out, The Business Press Maven is in ill sorts.
“First, the overexcited headlines: ‘Black Friday Turned Green at the Malls Before Dawn,’ yells The New York Times, leading with: ‘The clock struck midnight. Then the mall struck back.’
“The New York Post hyperventilates even further: ‘Big Spenders Lift Retailers To Blowout Sales.’
“The Associated Press is more understated, but the takeaway is the same: We’re in the money. ‘Retailers hope pace of sales continues.’
“Talk abounds about sales numbers, traffic, early openings and even — approvingly — the discounts that drove much of the traffic and sales. Which is where The Business Press Maven — who, as you know, believes we are going to have a good though not spectacular holiday season — urges a note of caution.
“Sales numbers don’t matter in the end unless the sales are profitable. Those discounts can eat into profits pretty quickly, as can those longer hours, with workers paid double time. Let’s think in terms of store profits, not sales, as the business media does.”
Read more here. Fuchs likes a Reuters story that makes the point about profitability.
Ken Shepherd of the Business & Media Institute dissected a report on the ABC News Monday that looked at “extreme” jobs where people work long hours and found that the report exaggerated what was actually happening.
Shepherd wrote, “Thatâ€™s how ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased a story in the opening credits of the November 27 ‘World News.’ Yet for all the hype, fewer than one percent of Americans hold these type of ‘extreme’ jobs, and most are well-compensated.
“The ‘so-called extreme jobs,’ Gibson told viewers, involve ‘high-pressure work that often comes with a very high salary and a very heavy personal toll.’ Yet itâ€™s only about ’2 million Americans’ that ‘fall into this fast-growing category,’ Gibson conceded as he introduced a report by Betsy Stark.
“In a nation of roughly 300 million people, thatâ€™s only 0.67 percent of the countryâ€™s population, although Starkâ€™s report made ‘extreme’ work sound like a pandemic.
“Whatâ€™s more, Gibson got his 2 million number by rounding up from the 1.7 million Americans in ‘extreme’ jobs as determined by the New York-based Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP). Stark featured CWLP senior fellow Catherine Orenstein in her story but did not mention the organizationâ€™s name or its ideological leanings.
“A review of CWLPâ€™s Web site shows the group often focuses on traditional liberal workplace concerns such as the number of women and minorities in executive leadership in American business.”
Read more here.
The Small Business Times, a newspaper that caters to small businesses in southeastern Wisconsin, announced Friday that it started a weekly commercial and residential real estate bulletin delivered to subscribers via e-mail.
A short story noted, “Like the BizTimes Daily, the BizTimes Real Estate Weekly is free to subscribers. The new bulletin is delivered by e-mail to subscribers on Wednesday mornings.
Andrew Weiland, managing editor of Small Business Times, oversees the compilation of the BizTimes Real Estate Weekly bulletin. Weiland also writes the Commercial Real Estate Spotlight in the print edition of SBT.
“The new e-mail bulletin features exclusive local real estate news and profiles the people, issues and the events shaping the industry.
â€œ’SBT is committed to being the definitive source of news and information about the local real estate industry, which transcends into all other industries in southeastern Wisconsin,’ said SBT publisher Dan Meyer.”
Read more here.
John Carney on Dealbreaker.com notes the vast difference between the Boston Globe headline and the Reuters headline for the same story — a speech given by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen.
Paulson Either Did Or Didn’t Say Something Yesterday
Paulsen makes the case for tougher enforcement of securities laws
Boston Globe, November 21, 2006
Paulsen says need to apply business rules lightly
Reuters, November 21, 2006
Just as long as those guys in Washington are giving the market clear signals.
Dow Jones Newswires announced Monday the launch of Tomorrowâ€™s News Today from Capital Markets Report, an end-of-the-day market wrap-up and next day outlook from its editors.
The electronic newsletter will be delivered each day to fixed-income, money market and foreign exchange professionals and will include a summary of the dayâ€™s market-moving news and give insight into the news and events that will affect the next dayâ€™s markets.
The newsletter will be provided with subscriptions to Dow Jones Capital Markets Report, a real-time source of global debt and foreign exchange news, commentary and analysis. The service is used by traders, economists, analysts and other professionals and is available via market data systems or directly from Dow Jones.
This new publication builds on the Tomorrowâ€™s News Today franchise. The first version goes out to tens of thousands of advisors and equity market professionals each day, providing them with a daily recap of key events, market round-ups, calendars and talking points.
The newsletter is emailed every afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to subscribers of Dow Jones Capital Markets Report.
Read more here.
The Toronto Stock Exchange, Thomson Financial and The Canadian Press have teamed up to start a new business news wire in Canada, according to a story in the Toronto Star.
The story stated, “The TSX/CP Equities News service provides news from Canadian companies, both public and private, across a broad spectrum, including alerts, economic and fiscal coverage and related political and regulatory news from Ottawa and the provincial capitals, the companies said in a joint release.
“‘Our global news strategy is to deliver tailored market-specific information to clients in the business and financial communities,’ said Matthew Burkley, Thomson Financial’s senior vice-president of news and strategy.
“‘We are excited that our relationship with TSX/CP Equities News will provide financial professionals in Canada a targeted financial news service tailored to their needs and integrated with our market-leading proprietary content and applications.’”
Read more here.