Green Shoots Roundup


June is busting out all over, and it's only April.

Retail sales increased 1.6 percent in March. The "surge" is being called unexpected, and this time it actually is: Egghead consensus had March sales pegged at 1.2 percent or 1.3 percent. More promising: March retail growth was positive, at 0.6 percent, even excluding cars and trucks. IHS economist Nigel Gault telles MarketWatch, "This surge in spending reflects a decline in the saving rate rather than a surge in income, since real disposable income probably fell in the quarter." This last part will come as a surprise to the secretary of the Treasury.

Mortgage delinquencies have declined ever so slightly in the first quarter, a fact that merited A-1 top-right placement in USA Today's exotic "paper" edition. This figure comes from Equifax, which made precisely the opposite claim just 45 days ago. The new improved HAMP must be in a fast-acting gel form (oral insertion recommended).

Business inventories rose half a percent in February. The numbers.

Needs Improvement: Inflation. The consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in March, after a flat February. But this increase was due entirely to growing food and energy costs, leading to say inflation is "in check," with Business Week opining that "tame inflation is accompanying the economic recovery." Central economic planners can't deliver the deep satisfaction the nation craves with a rate of inflation this flaccid. But things look better in the big picture: Every dollar you have is worth 2.3 cents less than it was worth a year ago. And if you're like your average countryman, you have fewer dollars than you had a year ago. So you're richer in love and experience; you're only poorer in reality.

NEXT: Lies, Damn Lies, and Campaign Tax Promises

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  1. Y’know, Hit & Run is really beginning to challenge for stretching the relevence of photos it chooses for stories…

    1. Alien growths in Creepshow on Stephen King’s face aren’t relevant to “green shoots”?

      1. Just wait until we give the economy a nice warm bath of delayed stimulus spending.

      2. So it IS a picture of meteor shit! I thought so! What a great film.

  2. a rate of inflation this flaccid

    Better than a giant, veiny, throbbing rate of inflation though, right?

    1. Depending on who you ask. XD

      Thank you for making me laugh out loud, I needed that.

      1. I saw the word ‘flaccid’ and immediately thought of working in the Ron White joke. So he should get most of the credit.

      2. Come here often, sweety?

  3. And if you’re like your average countryman, you have fewer dollars than you had a year ago.

    But that makes us eligible for more tax credits, so we got that goin for us.

  4. That “used cars +16.3%” is startling. Because you might think that’s the only tracked commodity whose path to market is sufficiently complex and free to evade all but the grossest manipulations and reliably stand in for “the economy.”

    But it’s more like when X-Men #171 goes for $40 on eBay to one creep trying to hoard all the world’s ’80s v-neck unitard cleavage. It’s just not an economic indicator.

    I mean, economists don’t buy used cars. QED.

    1. As someone who recently bought a used car, I can tell you why there was such high inflation in the used car market: Cash 4 Clunkers.

      Many (most?) of the cheap ass cars got scooped up and scrapped in the Cash 4 Clunkers program. As a result the used car market became more top-heavy*, so it looks like used cars went for more, when it is really a case of the worst cars being off the market. That’s why 2/3 of the inflation happened from Sept-Jan, right after C4C.

      * Technically, bottom light.

      1. The government using the housing bubble to make war on affordable housing. Can we really be surprised that they have moved on to affordable transportation?

      2. I honestly never thought that I would see the day when the government actually and blatently embraced the broken windows fallacy. But CforC put an end to that illusion. “Destoying assets! The Way to Prosperity!!”

        1. What do you think FDR did during the Great Depression. Ever hear of the WPA?

  5. The core CPI, which economists eye closely because it strips out volatile food and energy prices,

    80% of my non-mortgage spending is on food and energy. Economists sure are fucking stupid.

    1. No kidding. I track our spending on food (thank you, Quicken!). Our eating habits don’t change, and our food bill is up in the neighborhood of 15% over last year.

  6. There are two statistics, in addition ot inflation, that really matter; unemployment (which is effectively over 16%) and per capita income, which is down 3.2% since the inauguration and down in 47 of 50 states.…..come-.html

    1. U6 is not the real or effective unemployment rate.…..isnt-17-3/

      1. I would argue that it is a very good indicator if you are in bad times. I don’t see how the number of people who drop out of the work force to go to school or live on her husband’s salary is not relevent to the employment picture. The U6 is not the end all be all. But when it gets up above 15% (meaning you have 15% of your workforce sitting idly rather than producing things of value) it says more about your situation than the straight UE rate.

        1. There are all sorts of other measures that aren’t as funky as U6 that can measure these things. Things like duration of unemployment (which is excruciatingly high). I know people that are using the bad economy as an excuse to not go to work. For example, a former colleague of mine just had a baby and said, “Great, I don’t have to work full time for the first couple of years of my kid being born and it won’t look bad because of the economy.” She would be counted as marginally attached or underemployed, but isn’t really.

          BTW, saying that a U6 of 15% means that 15% of the workforce are sitting idly reveals your ignorance of what the U6 is. The U6 includes the employee with one furlough day a month that is considered working 33 hours a week instead of their preferred 35 hours. Working 2 less hours a week that you’d like kinda sucks, but it’s not exactly idle.

          1. The amount of slack in the labor force tells you how close you are to actually recovering. The U6 has to come down before the unemployment rate does. That is why I say it is relevent in bad times.

            1. It has, the U6 is down 0.5% from its peak in December (of course, U3 is down too). Though U6 doesn’t traditionally lead U3 because it includes part time workers. Generally in a recovery, part time workers take jobs (they would still be counted under U6) then those jobs turn into permanent jobs and so on.

              1. “…U6…U3…”

                Slow down with the gauge groups y’all, i can’t keep up. Damn unified field theories.

              2. That would be great if it were true. Gallup conducts a more extensive poll then the government’s household survey and it puts the U6 up to 20.3% for March. This is up half a percentage point since February.


                1. How is Gallup’s poll more extensive? The household survey is 60K people, Gallup’s is only 20K. Also, there are no seasonal adjustments made, whereas the BLS shows with and without seasonal adjustments.

                  1. Seasonal adjustments? You mean massaging the numbers like the Hadley Center?

                  2. Also, ADP came in with a negative number for March. So, basically only the government is hiring. Who pays their salaries?

  7. alt text: The tables are turned as Steve Smith’s encounter with Ben Roethlisberger goes horribly awry.


  8. with Business Week opining that “tame inflation is accompanying the economic recovery.”

    The recovery itself is tame — if indeed a recovery it be — so that’s not much comfort.

    1. Obama has managed to make us too poor to even have stagflation.

  9. So you’re richer in love

    Wrong again.

  10. All my life the auto industry has led the country into recession and out of it. Looking at the car biz we are already in a slow recovery now. The recession (as economists define it) is over. How strong? How long? I don’t know and nobody else does either. Douple dip recessions have happened and I believe that is a real possibility.

    Employment is always a lagging stat in a recovery and I’d be surprised if any folks here don’t know it. Businesses hire people after business improves and are understandably skittish about it.

    Props to Mo @ 2:21PM. The inflation of used car prices after C4C was predicted by many, including this uneducated lad. The whole program was a sop to the middle class and auto companies at the expense of taxpayers and those who buy used cars, the young and poor mostly.

    1. “The whole program was a sop to the middle class and auto companies at the expense of taxpayers and those who buy used cars, the young and poor mostly.”

      Couldn’t you argue that those who buy used cars, the young and poor were the ones hurt the most by C for C? One would think prices were kept artificially high, or possibly even inflated by the program.

      1. That’s precisely what J sub D is saying.

  11. Damn, misread J sub D”s post. My bad.

    1. Sorry, I didn’t refresh >.

  12. We’re re-inflating the same bubbles whose bursting ushered in the great-recession and they’re calling it a recovery.

    1. ^ this

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