Posts filed under “Financial Press”

New Home Sales Fell 41% in February 2009

WSJ: Sales of new homes rose in February for the first time in seven months, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday, another sign that the housing market is thawing

Bloomberg: Purchases of new homes in the U.S. unexpectedly rose in February from a record low as plummeting prices and cheaper mortgage rates lured some buyers. Sales increased 4.7 percent to an annual pace of 337,000 . . .

Marketwatch: The U.S. housing sector continues to see signs of improvement. The latest government data showed new home sales climbed in February for the first time in seven months, sending shares of home-building companies soaring.


A parade of the mathematically innumerate business writers (and even worse headline writers!) continue to misread data. The latest evidence? New Home Sales.

After incorrectly reporting the Existing Home Sales, the mainstream media misread the Census department report of New Homes.

No, New Home Sales data did not improve. In fact, they were not only not positive, they were actually horrific. The year over year number was a terrible down 41%.  Sales from this same period a year ago have nearly been halved.

Why did the media report this as positive? If you only read the headline number, you saw a positive datapoint: February was plus 4.7% over January.

To get the the facts, you need to read below the headline. In the present case, it wasn’t the seasonality factor that was confusing, it was the “90-percent confidence intervals” — or as it is more commonly known, the margin of error.

From the Census Bureau:

Sales of new one-family houses in February 2009 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 337,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 4.7 percent (±18.3%)* above the revised January rate of 322,000, but is 41.1 percent (±7.9%) below the February 2008 estimate of 572,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in February 2009 was $200,900; the average sales price was $251,000. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 330,000. This represents a supply of 12.2 months at the current sales rate.

Note that the month over month data at 4.7% — plus or minus 18.3% — is statistically insignificant. (i.e., meaningless). The reported data does not inform us if sales improved month-over-month or not. It is a range, from down -13.6% to plus 23%. Since “zero” is part of that range, we can draw no conclusion. As the Census Department itself notes, “the change is not statistically significant; that is, it is uncertain whether there was an increase or decrease.”

The data does however, tell us that the year-over-year sales fell 41.1% plus or minus 7.9% gives us a range of -49% to -33.2%. The entire range is negative, therefore we can conclude sales fell year-over-year.

These are facts. This is data. This is how you interpret it. Most of the MSM reports (WSJ, Marketwatch, Bloomberg) were simply wrong.

Not nuanced, not shaded, but 2+2=5 wrong.

Let me remind that many of these folks incorrectly misinformed you that Housing wasn’t getting worse in 2006, 2007 and 2008 — just as Home sales and prices went into an historic freefall. Now, these same folks are misinforming you that Housing has turned around and is improving. That is simply unsupported by the data.

(And don’t even ask about television — they simply read the wrong news. Here is a life lesson for you: Never believe news people who read teleprompters. They have no idea what they are doing, they are reading what someone else wrote. When it comes to data interpretation, they are quite literally clueless. Rely on news readers to your personal financial detriment).

The bottom line: Learn to interpret data correctly. Avoid using the people who cannot do so as primary news sources.


New Home Sales Annual Sales Rate, Seasonal Adjusted

Chart via Census Department


A Closer Look at New Home Sales Data (October 2006)

April New Home Sales – Revisited (November 2005)

New Home Sales Fall 42% (May 2008)

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Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Financial Press, Real Estate

Merrill/Bank America Departures

Two heavy hitters have departed Merrill Lynch (or, as it is now called, Bank of America ): David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist for Merrill, and Richard Bernstein, their chief investment strategist. Rosie is returning home to Canada where he is joining Gluskin Sheff & Associates in Toronto; Bernstein is starting his own money…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Markets

Investigating AIG

Everyone seems to be all abuzz about the Mike Taibbi takedown of AIG in Rolling Stone. Its a fun read — as is any piece that begins “we’re officially, royally fucked” — but there are a few other columns that do an excellent job contextualizing 1) How AIG got so heavily involved in CDOs and…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Derivatives, Financial Press

Billion vs 1,000 Million

Wryly amusing: > > Hat tip Bradman! via XKCD

Category: Bailouts, Financial Press, Humor, Mathematics

Will Ferrell on CNBC

Will Ferrell’s visit to CNBC’s Power Lunch to promote the premiere of The John McEnroe Show as well as his movie Anchorman on July 7, 2004. (Will Ferrell’s movie “Step Brothers” was in theaters then). This is how the skit aired on the McEnroe show later that night:



Hat tip: Kid Lane

Category: Financial Press, Humor, Video

Society’s Only Protection

Marcia whipped up this amusing parody:

Category: Bailouts, Digital Media, Financial Press

Video-o-rama: Stock markets – turnaround time

Video-o-rama: Stock markets – turnaround time

Tuesday marked a reversal of fortune for global stock markets as investors adopted a more positive view of the prospects for the banking sector and cast aside concerns about the economy.

The movements of the major US indices over the past three days tell the story of the nascent rally: Dow Jones Industrial Index (+8.7%), S&P 500 Index (+11.0%), Nasdaq Composite Index (+12.4%) and Russell 2000 Index (+13.7%). A positive close by the end of trading today [Friday] will record only the second up-week out of 10 in 2009.

On the video front, footage was produced debating whether markets were witnessing A bottom or THE bottom and also the usual dosage of the dour outlook for economic growth and speculation about the “next penny” to drop.

Also included in this week’s compilation is a mega interview with celebrity stock endorser Warren Buffett, as well as a no-holds-barred face-to-face encounter between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer (in three parts at the end of the post).

Bloomberg: Marc Faber says government actions will boost stocks
“Government spending will spur gains in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index after it fell 56% from an October 2007 record, investor Marc Faber, the publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, said. ‘Equities could rally between here and the end of April,’ Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. ‘The government’s efforts will fail to boost economic activity. They can boost stocks. Stocks have adjusted meaningfully.’”


Source: Bloomberg, March 9, 2009.

Charlie Rose: Barton Biggs on the stock market

Source: Charlie Rose, March 9, 2009.

Tech Ticker, Yahoo Finance: Ritholtz – get long torches & pitchforks; bailouts “absolutely asinine”


Source: Tech Ticker, Yahoo Finance, March 10, 2009.

Fox Business: Fleckenstein – not in a hurry to buy
“Bill Fleckenstein talks about the economy and why he isn’t rushing back to the market to buy.”


Source: Fox Business, March 5, 2009.

John Authers (Financial Times): China and the markets
“Should US or European stocks have sold off on the Chinese news [of poor exports]? Not necessarily. By this week, the S&P 500 had priced in much future bad news, says Authers.”


Click here for the article.

Source: John Authers, Financial Times, March 11, 2009.

CBS News: Your bank has failed – what happens next?
“What would happen if your local bank failed? Scott Pelley and ‘60 Minutes’ were given extraordinary access, as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation moves in to take over a failed bank in Chicago.”

Click here for the article.

Source: CBS News, March 8, 2009.

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Category: Bailouts, Financial Press, Video

Bad News for Newspapers

The newspaper industry, laden with heavy debt, is forcing companies into bankruptcy. Money-losing papers are closing. Here’s a look at the remaining newspapers, by city and circulation: > via NYT > Source: As Cities Go From Two Papers to One, Talk of Zero RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA NYT, March 11, 2009

Category: Digital Media, Financial Press

REVIEW: Quit Doling Out That Bad-Economy Line

Its been exactly 6 months since the single dumbest newspaper column ever published appeared in The Washington Post. Breathtaking in its ignorance, shocking in its fallibility, astonishing in its author’s perversely misperceived world view, it stands as a monument to sheer cluelessness as an economic discipline.

It wasn’t merely off — its simply hard to find anything market or economic related in it that wasn’t 180 degrees wrong. It is a monument to why economists should never allow their politics to influence their day jobs.

I was otherwise occupied when this fetid pile of foolishness was published. Six months later, it reads even more ridiculously than it did on 9/14/08.

Let’s take a closer look at this, sentence by sentence, and see if we can find anything of value in it.  (My comments are ALL CAPS AND BOLD)

Quit Doling Out That Bad-Economy Line

“It was the worst of times, and it was the worst of times.”

I imagine that’s what Charles Dickens would conclude about the current condition of the U.S. economy, based on the relentless drumbeat of pessimism in the media and on the campaign trail. [THAT PESSIMISM WAS THE CORRECT CONCLUSION]  In the past two months, this newspaper alone has written no fewer than nine times, in news stories, columns and op-eds, that key elements of the economy are the worst they’ve been “since the Great Depression.” That diagnosis has been applied twice to the housing “slump” and once to the housing “crisis,” to the “severe” decline in home prices, to the “spike” in mortgage foreclosures, to the “change” in the mortgage market and the “turmoil” in debt markets, and to the “crisis” or “meltdown” in financial markets. [THAT’S BECAUSE ALL THOSE SECTORS HAVE BEEN IN ENORMOUS SLUMPS]

It’s a virus — and it’s spreading. Do a Google News search for “since the Great Depression,” and you come up with more than 4,500 examples of the phrase’s use in just the past month. [HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO OTHER PERIODS? IS THIS A LOT OR A LITTLE?]

But that doesn’t make any of it true. [BUT IT WAS & IS] Things today just aren’t that bad. [UNLESS YOU LOOK AT THE DATA; THEN ITS EVEN WORSE] Sure, there are trouble spots in the economy, as the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and jitters about Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers, amply demonstrate. [JITTERS? ABOUT THE BIGGEST BANKRUPTCY IN AMERICAN HISTORY? NICE TIMING]  And unemployment figures are up a bit, too. [A BIT? 4 MILLION JOBS LOST SINCE THE RECESSION BEGAN] None of this, however, is cause for depression — or exaggerated Depression comparisons.  [WHY NOT?]

Overall, the pessimists are up against an insurmountable reality: In the last reported quarter, the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent, adjusted for inflation. [HOW’S THE REVISED GDP DATA?]  That’s virtually the same as the 3.4 percent average growth rate since — yes — the Great Depression. [EVERYTHING IS FINE, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG]

Why, then, does the public appear to agree with the media? [BECAUSE THEY ARE SMARTER THAN YOU] A recent Zogby poll shows that 66 percent of likely voters believe that “the entire world is either now locked in a global economic recession or soon will be.” [AS WE HAVE LEARNED, A LOT SMARTER] Actually, that’s a major clue to what started this thought-contagion about everything being the worst it has been “since the Great Depression”: Politics. [THE FIRST THING YOU GOT RIGHT: YOUR POLITICS HAS BLINDED YOU TO REALITY]

Patient zero in this epidemic is the Democratic candidate for president. [ITS ALL HIS FAULT!] As it would be for any challenger, it’s in his interest to portray the incumbent party’s economic performance in the grimmest possible terms. [LIKE: “ARE YOU BETTER OFF NOW THAN YOU WERE 8 YEARS AGO?“] Barack Obama has frequently used the Depression exaggeration, including during a campaign speech in June, when he said that the “percentage of homes in foreclosure and late mortgage payments is the highest since the Great Depression.” [DAMN FACTS, HOW DARE HE] At best, this statement is a good guess. [NO, ITS ACCURATE DEPICTION OF DATA. DO YOU KNOW WHAT DATA IS?] To be really true, it would have to be heavily qualified with words such as “maybe” or “probably.” [HOW ABOUT 2 MILLION PLUS FORECLOSURES AND RISING?] According to economist David C. Wheelock of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who has studied the history of mortgage markets for the Fed, “there are no consistent data on foreclosure or delinquency going all the way back to the Depression.”  [YOU ARE GOING WITH “WE DONT HAVE FORECLOSURE DATA GOING BACK THAT FAR?” REALLY?]

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Category: Economy, Financial Press, Markets, Politics

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble !

Rob writes in to say:

There has been a wee bit of a dispute going on between CNBC’s Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart of The Comedy Channel. Sort of like there was a mild difference of opinion between the Allies and the Nazis. Or perhaps like that time that Ali and Frazier got together for a light workout.

Well, tonight on The Daily Show, Cramer will be Stewart’s guest. That should prove to be rather interesting.

Here are some clips of the matter up to this point. By the way, whether you agree with Cramer or whether you agree with Stewart, this is pretty funny stuff.


Jon Stewart’s original bashing of Cramer/CNBC and his follow-ups after Cramer began talking about it on the air. (Note – it takes a while to view the videos, but its not like we’re busy making money or doing work anyway these days):

1) March 4, 2009: CNBC Gives Financial Advice


2) March 6, 2009 Some Liquid Sunshine: An “intervention” by Stephen Colbert (also of The Comedy Channel)


3) Monday, 9 Mar 2009 Cramer’s retort and explanation:


4) March 9, 2009: In Cramer We Trust


5) March 10, 2009: Basic Cable Personality Clash Skirmish ’09


Final clash of the titans this evening at 11pm . . .

Category: Financial Press, Video