Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No Good News


Today’s Wall Street Journal ( splashed the headline “Decline in Home Prices Accelerates” across the front page. The subtext read, ”Fed's Efforts Have Only Muted Effect On Mortgage Rates.” The accompanying article made clear that home prices are heading south while mortgage rates are going north. Not a happy combination.

The week began with the National Association of Realtors’ February 25 report ( that existing-home sales slipped again to a 4.89 million rate. If you update the chart below with that figure, you can appreciate the relentless slide.

Existing-Home Sales

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

And, as if that was not bad enough, today the Census Bureau informed us ( that only 588 thousand new homes sold in January. Update the chart below with that figure and you’ll see that, if this trend continues for a few more months, we’ll be back to numbers from the 1990-91 recession. That’s brutal.

New-Home Sales

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

The decline in consumer confidence reflects these trends. Yesterday the Conference Board reported ( consumer conference fell to 75 in January. That’s a recession reading in the chart below.

Consumer Confidence

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

Yet, in a report issued on February 20 (, before the release of these dismal consumer confidence numbers, the Conference Board remained upbeat. The report’s headline summed it up: "Recession Unlikely, Housing Sector Correction Nearly Over."

That optimism is founded on the belief that housing’s troubles are limited, encapsulated and will not infect the rest of the economy. But there are other points of view.

On the same day as the Conference Board’s report that recession was unlikely, Prof. Martin Feldstein published an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal ( presenting his view that mounting evidence leads to the conclusion a recession has begun. Prof. Feldstein blames the housing crisis for growing credit-market dysfunction. Financial intermediaries increasingly don’t trust one another, crimping the lending that could drive the spending of economic recovery.

How to deal with this calamity?

Prof. Alan Blinder, writing in the February 24 New York Times (, harked back to the New Deal’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation as a template for an institution that could refinance troubled mortgage-loans and stave off massive foreclosure. That would revive the residential real-estate sector and hasten the resurgence of new building and the economy. It would also help resolve the credit-market gridlock that concerns Prof. Feldstein.

But on February 23 ( and 26 ( respectively, The New York Times published articles with these ominous headlines: "A ‘Moral Hazard’ for a Housing Bailout: Sorting the Victims From Those Who Volunteered" and "Foreclosure Aid Rising Locally, as Is Dissent." The Point: It will be difficult to generate broad, deep and sufficient relief for homeowners facing foreclosure as long as many believe that the borrowers brought their difficulties down upon themselves.

And, if we can’t fix the mortgage market, how can we repair the credit market and resuscitate the economy?

(The charts are taken from [Click on Seminars and then Charts.] Go there for additional charts on the economy and a list of Economic Indicators.)

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Fed Is Culpable


Tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal will run a story ( on the release of the Federal Reserve’s minutes and the Fed’s continuing concern regarding the economy’s sluggish performance.

Today’s CNN-Money web site published an article ( on the possibility of recession in 2009, just in case we escape that misfortune this year.

These articles sharpen our concerns over the economy’s performance, but don’t resolve the question of whether or not we’ll tumble into recession. But perhaps that’s not so important. After all, Japan’s economy suffered a decade of poor performance, stagnation and slow growth. Whether or not that economy was technically in recession loses importance with historical perspective. We do know that a double asset-inflation – stocks and real estate - seized Japan in the late 1980s, and that the subsequent asset deflation precipitated the sluggish 1990s.

America’s recent experience is a little different. We suffered serial, rather than concurrent asset inflations. First came the bubble of the late 1990s, followed by the crash. Then came the real-estate bubble of 2002-2007, which is deflating now. The Fed was aware of both bubbles but chose not to deal with them, stating that price-inflation rather than asset-inflation was its primary concern. Yet, when the bubble burst in 2000, the Fed selected text-book easy-money policy to deal with that downturn.

But the Fed’s 2000 – 2003 expansionary policy had unintended consequences. Residential real-estate had been enjoying boom conditions in the late 1990s. Construction was strong and home prices were rising rapidly. That sector required no stimulation. The recession’s impact was confined to the business sector (corporate equities and capital expenditures) and did not spill into home sales and home building.

Consequently the low interest rates that the Fed perpetrated and perpetuated in 2000 – 2003 turned the peak of housing’s cyclical wave into an unanticipated tsunami. Construction, sales and prices rose and then rose some more. Critics called upon the Fed to restrain rampant asset-inflation by restricting excess ease in the credit markets. But the Fed chose to let the tsunami build and wash over everything, observing – as it had in the late 1990s – that price inflation was dormant.

Now that the tsunami has collapsed under its own weight, rather than the Fed’s policy initiative, there is little that the Fed can do to prevent the deflating tsunami from washing everything out to sea. Tight money didn’t pop the bubble, so easy money can’t repair it. We’ve had back-to-back asset inflations, and must now deal with the consequences of a follow-up asset deflation.

Observers have commented on the difficulty of breaking the asset deflation’s vicious circle. See today’s Wall Street Journal ( for an example:

“As home prices fall, more families see the values of their homes decline to less than the amount of money they have to pay back on their mortgages. That gives them an incentive to walk away from their mortgages and leave their homes empty, which puts more downward pressure on home prices, drawing more households into the loop.”

In an asset deflation, falling prices can boost supply and reduce demand, exacerbating rather than alleviating the underlying problem.

Too bad the Fed didn’t think of that when it was basking in the benefits of asset inflation. Now we must all live with a problem of the Fed’s creation.

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Sense Of An Ending


“The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction” is the title of Frank Kermode’s work of literary criticism. I’d like to borrow that title to frame today’s discussion of where the economy is now.

There’s a tug of war going on between those who say we’re in recession and those who say we’re not. There are vested interests on both sides. People in positions of great authority say, “We’re not,” because they don’t wish to be blamed for recession or risk the chance of initiating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Critics of the higher-ups say, “We are,” because they routinely disagree with the higher-ups and believe the higher-ups rarely get it right.

Of course those are unfair characterizations. Honest people disagree. And in any event, there IS a middle ground that goes beyond fence-sitting: We’re at a turning point, and that turning point has become a long, slow ark. That is, the economy is neither IN or OUT of recession: It’s moving laterally as growth recedes and economic activity slides from expansion into contraction.

Remember when Abby Joseph Cohen compared the American economy to a super-tanker? Our ship was so large and steaming so inexorably northward that it would take a lot of bad news to turn it about and drive it south. Ms. Cohen drew that analogy in order to illustrate the small chance of recession. But if the tanker IS inexorably changing course, then a great turn has begun. We are slowly coming about, as the sailors say, and should not expect, or even look for, a rapid change in direction. Watch instead for signs of lateral motion before the southerly course is set.

Three statistics that gauge the strength of output and production illustrate this point: Capacity Utilization, the Purchasing Managers’ Index and Job Growth.

On February 15 the Federal Reserve released its report on capacity utilization (, and it provides a good place to start.

Capacity utilization presents the current level of industrial activity, measured as a percentage of the maximum. If we can produce 100 tons of stuff a day but generate only 85, then industry is operating at 85% of capacity. The industry operating rate (as capacity utilization is sometimes called) is a moving target because capacity grows over time as industry invests in additional plant and eqipment. In the short run, however, capacity utilization provides a good measure of industrial activity.

You can see in the table below, taken from the Fed’s February 15 report, that capacity utilization was flat in the last quarter of 2007 and remains flat at the start of this year.

Fourth quarter 2007....... 81.1%
October 2007...................81.4%
November 2007.............. 81.5%
December 2007...............81.5%
January 2008..................81.5%

The following chart reinforces that impression. Capacity utilization has stalled, and it has stalled at a relatively low number.

Capacity Utilization

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) reinforces that impression. Take a look at the following table, drawn from ISM’s February 1 report:

October 2007...................50.4
November 2007.............. 50.0
December 2007...............48.4
January 2008..................50.7

Any reading over 50 denotes expanding manufacturing activity. Once again, 2007’s last quarter, as well as the first report for 2008, indicates that manufacturing has stalled.

The following chart illustrates the gradual decline over the past few years, culminating with recent months’ flat performance.

Purchasing Managers’ Index

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

Finally, there’s the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ February 1 employment report: Employment was flat through the last quarter of 2007 and into the beginning of 2008 (numbers in thousands).

...........................................IV 07......Nov 07... Dec 07... Jan 08
Nonfarm employment.......p138,044 138,037p138,119p138,102

The chart below illustrates how the job-growth data mirror the production data: Weakening performance, until the recent numbers are devoid of improvement.

Job Growth

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

To Recap: None of these data by themselves point to recession, nor do all combined irrevocably confirm recession. But the gradual erosion is clear, so that a continuation of the trend points to a reduction in activity. Isn’t that what a turning point is all about?

There seems to be a sense of an ending.

(The charts are taken from [Click on Seminars and then Charts.] Go there for additional charts on the economy and a list of Economic Indicators.)

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann

Thursday, February 14, 2008

They Can’t Both Be Right


CNN reported on today’s testimony by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke:

The story began:

“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson both acknowledged problems in the U.S. economy Thursday, but both said they believe the nation will avoid falling into recession.

“The two made their comments at a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee about the economy. Their testimony comes in the wake of troubling economic readings that have raised recession fears on Wall Street.

“But while Paulson and Bernanke repeatedly insisted they expect the economy to avoid shifting into reverse - thanks in part to a series of interest rate cuts by the Fed and a $170 billion economic stimulus package signed by President Bush Wednesday - they conceded the economy faces additional headwinds.”

Note the emphasis: Times are rough, but no recession.

For a fascinating counterpoint, take a look at Robert Reich’s op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times:

Prof. Reich sums it up in the opening paragraphs:

“WE’RE sliding into recession, or worse, and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

“The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going. “

The point is clear: We’ve had the fat years, get ready for the lean.

It would be easy to dismiss these points of view with a reference to their authors’ orientation. The Treasury Secretary and the Fed Chairman must keep hope alive. They can’t admit recession without being accused of instigating one. The professor is a lefty whose gloomy forecasts have proven wrong before, and left-wing nostrums are sometimes at the heart of his suggested remedies.

But this divergence of views deserves more than a brush-off. Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke are, of course, correct. It’s too early to be absolutely sure we’re in recession. So Prof. Reich’s characterization is premature. Yet the professor builds on a fear that has been expressed before: We’ve borrowed to the hilt and can borrow no more. Spending financed by borrowing must shrink.

Prof. Reich weaves this observation into a historical analysis of recent developments. He reminds us that the typical worker’s income has not grown over several decades. A working spouse and more hours on the job helped, up to a point. So did borrowing ever-larger sums to finance the growing expenditures that enabled a rising level of living. That instigated the asset inflation that perpetuated the boom and postponed the day of reckoning.

Here’s how it worked. Borrowing and spending expanded consumption and also drove up real-estate values. Higher home-values (more collateral) permitted additional borrowing and spending. More borrowing -> More spending -> Soaring real-estate values -> More borrowing -> More spending.

But real-estate values are now collapsing all around us, so the borrowing and spending are grinding to a halt. The average Joe can’t borrow more and can’t earn more. How can he sustain the expenditures required to keep demand growing and the economy going? Prof Reich's answer: He can't, and that's why we're in trouble.

Even if you don’t agree with Prof. Reich’s solution of income redistribution, his basic warning is worth considering. Are we at a historic turning point? Does the bursting of the credit bubble mean the end of borrow and spend? Could it be that the economy’s demand-side engine has finally run out of gas? Many will respond that the supply-side remains in good shape, so not to worry. The New Economy (High-tech) is still with us. We will produce our way out of this.

Yet the stark contrast between the views expressed in these stories is worrisome in itself.

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Self-Inflicted Wound


The news was so bad this week; it’s painful to review. Weak retail sales………credit-card delinquencies……..continued credit-market dysfunction…….stricter loan standards. It feels like a bad case of the flu is about to hit, and bed-rest plus medication (the stimulus package) won’t be sufficient to stave it off.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s hero is today’s villain. Consider these book titles:

Bubble Man: Alan Greenspan and the Missing 7 Trillion Dollars” by Peter Hartcher

Who Shot Goldilocks?: How Alan Greenspan Did in Our Jobs, Savings, and Retirement Plans” by William Rutherford

Greenspan's Fraud: How Two Decades of His Policies Have Undermined the Global Economy” by Ravi Batra

Ouch! Glad I’m not The Maestro.

There’s more to the story, however, than the Fed’s failure to deal with two asset bubbles ( plus real estate) and the Fed’s refusal to support improved regulation and oversight of mortgage-lending practices and the credit markets. (And that’s not just Monday-morning quarterbacking. There were those who raised these issues in a timely fashion, only to have the Fed reject apt advice.)

What about monetary policy itself, the bed-rock foundation of modern counter-cyclical strategy and tactics? It has few opponents and is a feature of all macroeconomic courses and texts. Nobody quibbled when the Fed raised interest rates at the height of the boom or reduced them at the onset of the bust. Most observers applaud the Fed’s easy-money policies today.

But……. Should the wisdom of hindsight goad us into second thoughts regarding the onset of the housing bubble? There’s a case to be made for that. Consider, once again, the shrinking of the bubble from 2000 through 2002. Those years included stock-market bust and recession. The Fed acted promptly to reduce interest rates, eventually driving the federal-funds rate (at which banks lend reserves to one another) down to 1%.

The Fed did precisely what every textbook recommended. As aggregate demand slumped, the Fed did its best to spur bank lending by reducing interest rates: Lower interest rates -> More borrowing -> More spending -> A revived economy.

But the boom and bust was the first classical business cycle in many years, i.e. centered in business investment. Household spending had driven earlier cycles. In a nutshell: The economy had boomed when households splurged on homes and autos, only to collapse as rising inflation and interest rates choked off spending. Then the Fed would ride to the rescue and rekindle the economy by reducing rates, permitting housing and autos to surge once more.

Since the dot,com boom was a technological phenomenon rather than a response to reduced interest rates, falling rates would not rekindle it. But the Fed could not say “Reduced interest rates are not appropriate now because hi-tech will not respond to reduced rates. All that reduced rates will do is stimulate the residential-real-estate sector, which requires no assistance now. Since rate-cutting would be inappropriate and misplaced, better to do nothing and let things work themselves out.”

You can imagine the uproar if the Fed had said and done nothing. Alan Greenspan would have been lynched. No way would the Fed let that happen. So the Fed did what everyone wanted it to do: The Fed reduced rates and unintentionally set off a residential-real-estate tsunami of historical magnitude.

Worse yet…….. Since the residential-real-estate tsunami, like the boom before it, generated an asset inflation that was not reflected in the conventional (e.g. CPI) statistics, few cared. Having a boom without inflation was like draining the punchbowl without a hangover.

Well, a different sort of hangover is upon us now and, like every hangover, it was a self-inflicted wound. Yet no one sounded the alarm in 2000 – 2002 when the Fed instituted its easy-money policy. No one told the Fed in 2000 – 2002, “New-home sales are already robust. Sending interest rates into the cellar will ignite a fire under this sector.” No one told the Fed, “This is a cyclical industry. Your actions will generate a secular boom that extends far beyond the scope of any earlier cycle.” No one said, ”Leave interest rates alone.”

And that, of course, raises the specter of future consequences. What happens now? An article in today’s New York Times ( discusses just that. It includes an interesting quote, “Compared with the boom-bust cycle in Japan, the American housing market looks positively sedate.” Yet the charts included with the article (be sure your pop-ups are enabled) seem to portray similar asset-inflation outcomes for both the residential-real-estate and stock markets in Japan and the United States. Why can’t we repeat the Japanese experience once more by suffering a long, deflationary slide following an asset-inflation bubble?

The New York Times article points out that our banks and central bank won’t make the same mistakes made by the Japanese banks and central bank. But suppose we make different mistakes that have the same unhappy outcome? After all, who got us into this mess? Didn’t our guys have the Japanese experience to help them avoid a destructive asset inflation? Why didn’t they learn that lesson? Perhaps a new self-inflicted wound will follow upon the heels of an earlier one.

As Mark Twain said, “Giving up smoking is easy. I’ve done it many times.”

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Debt & Borrowing


Today’s New York Times ( carried an article calling attention to Americans’ diminished infatuation with debt and borrowing, and expressed the hope that Americans may begin to save once more. That of, course, implies reduced spending.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“For more than half a century, Americans have proved staggeringly resourceful at finding new ways to spend money……

“But now the freewheeling days of credit and risk may have run their course — at least for a while and perhaps much longer — as a period of involuntary thrift unfolds in many households. With the number of jobs shrinking, housing prices falling and debt levels swelling, the same nation that pioneered the no-money-down mortgage suddenly confronts an unfamiliar imperative: more Americans must live within their means…….

“The long collapse in the United States savings rate is over,” said Ethan S. Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers. “People are going to start saving the old-fashioned way, rather than letting the stock market and rising home values do it for them.”

“In 1984, Americans were still saving more than one-tenth of their income, according to the government. A decade later, the rate was down by half. Now, the savings rate is slightly negative, suggesting that on average Americans spend more than their disposable income.”

The binge may be done, but get ready for the hangover. The economy has become dependent upon rising borrowing (and therefore indebtedness) to support the increased demand that is key to production’s and employment’s healthy growth. When borrowing slows, however, so does spending. (Note the residential-construction collapse.) And that has always brought recession. This time is no exception.

The following chart captures households’ and businesses’ borrowing binge.

Private Borrowing

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

Borrowing grew six-fold from the mid-1990s to the middle of this decade. No other decade matches that record. We are about to pay the price.

But what about federal borrowing, the consequence of federal deficits? It’s small potatoes, as the next chart reveals.

Federal Receipts, Expenditures & Deficit

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

Federal borrowing equals the federal deficit with the sign reversed. When the bottom line in the chart falls into negative territory, that signals deficit spending that must be financed by an equivalent amount of borrowing. The deficit and borrowing reached a maximum of almost $500 billion a few years ago, and may well exceed that record during the forthcoming recession. But federal borrowing remains a fraction of the size of private borrowing.

Meanwhile, the huge growth in private borrowing had a corollary: The surge in America’s international indebtedness and our growing balance-of-trade deficit.

International Trade Balance

(Click on chart to enlarge)

Recessions shaded

This chart depicts our quarterly international trade balance, but you can also use it to estimate our quarterly borrowing from the rest of the world. It shows that lately we’ve been borrowing almost $200 billion quarterly (an $800 billion annual rate). What does that have to do with the private and federal borrowing discussed earlier?

Until recently a portion of American households saved enough to supply all the funds required by private and federal borrowers. Lately our domestic borrowing became so large and our domestic saving so small, that we had to “import” funds from overseas. That puts the quotation in the New York Times article in a different light.

“The long collapse in the United States savings rate is over,” said Ethan S. Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers. “People are going to start saving the old-fashioned way, rather than letting the stock market and rising home values do it for them.”

Our lack of saving never constrained our borrowing. We merely obtained more of the funds from abroad. The stock market and residential real estate gained value, buoyed – increasingly – by funds flowing in from elsewhere.

There’s another point that bears mention. Contrary to what the quotation implies, capital gains (increasing stock-market and home values) are not the same as accumulated saving. Both increase wealth or net worth. But the person who continues to save during the upcoming recession will continue to see his or her assets grow. Those who relied upon capital gains, and hoped for more of the same, will continue to see the value of their portfolios and homes melt away.

(The charts were taken from [Click on Seminars and then Charts.] Go there for additional charts on the economy and a list of Economic Indicators.)

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann

Saturday, February 2, 2008

February Publication Schedule & Web Sources


Here’s February’s tentative economic-indicator publication schedule, followed by a list of web sources. Future postings will discuss some of these indicators.

You can use the WEB SOURCES listing to find the data on your own and read the accompanying press release. The addresses take you to the source’s home page and the steps tell you how to navigate the site. That way (rather than provide a direct link to the data) you can become familiar with these sites and find additional information on your own.


February 2008

Source (* below)…………Series Description…………Day & Date

Quarterly Data

BEA…………………………GDP……………………...……Thu, 28th
BLS…………………………Productivity……………...…Wed, 6th

Monthly Data

ISM………………………….Purchasing managers’ index….Fri, 1st
BLS………………………….Employment……………………Fri, 1st
Fed…………………………..Consumer credit……………..Thu, 7th
Census……………………...Balance of trade………………Thu, 14th
Census……………………...Retail trade…………………….Wed, 13th
Census……………………...Inventories……………………..Wed, 13th
Fed…………………………..Industrial production……….Fri, 15th
Fed………………………….Capacity utilization…………….Fri, 15th
Census……………………..Housing starts………………….Wed, 20th
BLS………………………….Consumer prices……………...Wed, 20th
Conf Bd…………………….Leading Indicators…………….Thu , 21st
NAR…………………………Existing-home sales…….…….Mon, 25th
BLS………………………….Producer prices……………….Tue, 26th
Conf Bd…………………….Consumer confidence…………Tue, 26th
Census…………………….Capital goods……………….…..Wed, 27th
Census……………………..New-home sales……………….Wed, 27th
BEA…………………………Personal income………………Fri, 29th

* BEA = Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce
* Census = U.S. Bureau of the Census
* Conf Bd = Conference Board
* Fed = Federal Reserve System
* ISM = Institute for Supply Management
* NAR = National Association of Realtors


Index of Leading Economic Indicators:
Step 1: Click on "Economics" in the left-hand menu bar
Step 2: Click on "Economic Indicators" under "Economics" in the left-hand menu bar
Step 3: Click on link under "U.S. Leading Indicators"

Gross Domestic Product:
Step 1: Click on "Gross Domestic Product" under "National"
Step 2: Click on "National Income and Product Accounts Tables" under "Gross Domestic Product (GDP)"
Step 3: Click on "list of all NIPA Tables"
Step 4: Click on "Table 1.1.6. Real Gross Domestic Product..." and "Table 1.1.1. Percent Change..."
Step 5: Scroll down to line 1 in both tables and go to the last column on the right

Industrial Production & Capacity Utilization:
Step 1: Click on "All Statistical Releases" under "Recent Statistical Releases" and then click on "Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization" under "Principal Economic Indicators" in the upper left
Step 2: Click on "Current Monthly Release"
Step 3: Find the latest monthly data in the table next to "Total index" and "Total industry"

Institute For Supply Management Index:
Step 1: Click on "ISM Report on Business" in left-hand menu bar
Step 2: Click on “Latest Manufacturing ROB” and find the latest PMI

Producer Prices:
Step 1: Click on “Producer Price Indexes” under “Inflation & Consumer Spending” in left-hand menu bar
Step 2: Note "Finished goods" under "Latest Numbers" in upper right and multiply by 12 to put the data on an annual basis

Business Capital Expenditures (Nondefense Capital Goods):
Step 1: Click on "Economic Indicators" in the lower right
Step 2: Click on "PDF" on the left under "Advance Report on Durable Goods Manufacturers' Shipments and Orders"
Step 3: Scroll down to Table 1 and find new orders for nondefense capital goods near the bottom

Inventories, Sales & Inventory/Sales Ratio:
Step 1: Click on "Economic Indicators" in the lower right
Step 2: Click on "HTML" on the left under "Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales" Step 3: Scroll down to Table 1 and subtract previous month's inventories from latest month's and multiply by 12 to obtain inventory change, and then obtain the most recent inventory/sales ratio

Consumer Price Index:
Step 1: Click on “Consumer Price Index” under “Inflation & Consumer Spending” in left-hand menu bar
Step 2: Note "CPI-U..." at the top under "Latest Numbers" in upper right and multiply "SA" by 12 to put the data on an annual basis

Employment Data (Total Non-farm Payroll Employment) (Unemployment Rate) (Manufacturing Workweek):
Step 1: Click on “National Employment” under “Employment & Unemployment” in right-hand menu bar
Step 2: Click on (HTML) following “Employment Situation Summary” under "Economic News Releases"
Step 3: Click on “Employment Situation Summary” under “Table of Contents”
Step 4: Scroll down to Table A and find the unemployment rate for all workers in the latest month, the change in nonfarm employment in the last column and manufacturing hours of work for the latest month

Personal Income:
Step 1: Click on "Gross Domestic Product" under "National"
Step 2: Click on "National Income and Product Accounts Tables" under "Gross Domestic Product (GDP)"
Step 3: Click on "list of all NIPA Tables"
Step 4: Click on "Table 2.6 Personal Income..."
Step 5: Scroll down to line 1

Consumer Confidence:
Step 1: Click on the "Economics" in the left-hand menu bar
Step 2: Click on "Economic Indicators" under "Economics" in the left-hand menu bar
Step 3: Click on link under "Consumer Confidence Index"

Consumer Credit
Step 1: Click on "All Statistical Releases" under "Recent Statistical Releases" and then click on "Consumer credit -- G19" under "Household Finance" in the upper right
Step 2: Click on "Current Release"
Step 3: Go to "Amount ... billions of dollars" and subtract previous month from current month & multiply by 12 to obtain seasonally adjusted dollar amount at annual rate

Housing Starts:
Step 1: Click on "Economic Indicators" in the lower right
Step 2: Click on "PDF" on the left under "Current Press Release" under "Housing Starts/Building Permits"
Step 3: Scroll down to "Housing Starts"

Home Sales (Existing-Home Sales):
Step 1: Click on "Research" in the left-hand menu bar
Step 2: Find "Existing-Home Sales" under "Housing Indicators"

Home Sales (New-Home Sales):
Step 1: Click on "Economic Indicators" in the lower right
Step 2: Click on "PDF" on the left under "Current Press Release" under "New Home Sales"

Retail Sales:
Step 1: Click on "Economic Indicators" in the lower right
Step 2: Scroll down to "Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services" and click on "HTML" on the left under "Current Press Release"

© 2008 Michael B. Lehmann