Skip to comments.THEY HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING (Bogus GDP, inflation numbers)
Posted on 11/01/2007 7:01:20 PM PDT by Travis McGee
Yesterday, as the dollar fell to new record lows and oil and gold prices surged to new highs, Wall Street remained fixated on wholly meaningless government data that managed to report the lowest inflation in the last half century. These bizarre numbers were integral in allowing the Commerce Department to report 3.9% annualized GDP growth in the third quarter, which was heralded by the bulls as evidence that a resilient U.S. economy had shrugged off the problems in the housing and mortgage markets. However, the governments ability to make economic growth magically appear is based purely on statistical finesse.
To arrive at this rate, the government had to assume that inflation during the quarter ran at an annualized rate of .8% (thats less than 1%). That is the lowest rate of inflation used to calculate U.S. GDP since the Eisenhower administration. With oil priced at almost $100 per barrel, gold futures trading over $800 per ounce, the dollar hitting record lows, and the Fed printing money like it is going out of style, the government has the nerve to claim that current inflation is the lowest it has been in half a century. Unbelievable!
Just in case there is some confusion, the government adjusts nominal GDP gains using the GDP deflator, which represents the inflation rate during the time period being measured. This is done to strip inflation out of the GDP calculation so that only real growth gets counted: not nominal gains that result purely from inflation.
The consensus estimate for 3rd quarter GDP growth was 3.4%. The reason we beat that number was that the government adjusted the nominal 4.7% gain by a mere .8%. Had the government assumed a higher rate of inflation, say 2.6% (identical to the rate used to deflate second quarter GDP,) the 3rd quarter gain would have been only 2.1%, well shy of the consensus forecast. My guess is that inflation is actually running at an annualized rate closer to 10%. Therefore using a more honest deflator, the U.S. economy is actually contracting, which would explain the recent anecdotal evidence provided by various economic polls, voter dissatisfaction and consumer sentiment numbers. In fact, if one simply measures U.S. GDP using gold or any other currency, it is clear that we are already in a recession.
Similar illusions are created in other numbers, such as retail sales, corporate earnings, and stock prices, which are all rising merely as a result of actual inflation being higher than the official reports. For example, higher retail sales reflect consumers paying higher prices for the products that they buy. They may in fact be buying less stuff, but are paying more for it. Further, part of the gains result from tourists using their appreciated foreign currencies to buy products cheaper here than they can in the own countries. I have heard about Canadians checking into U.S. hotels with empty suitcases, crossing the border to indulge in weekend shopping sprees.
Corporate earnings, particularly those of multi-nationals, are padded as their foreign currency denominated earnings translate into more dollars when those earnings are repatriated. However, such gains are illusions, as companies merely earn more dollars of diminished value for the goods they sell. The actual volume of exports does not necessarily improve much, as evidenced by weak industrial production and manufacturing employment. When those additional debased dollars are paid out as dividends, they confer no real increase in global purchasing power to shareholders.
Similarly, just as inflation causes prices to rise for goods and services it causes stock prices to rise as well. Though such gains may be less than the actual increase in the cost of living, as long as the government gets away with using bogus CPI numbers which fail to fully reflect inflation, Wall Street takes credit for nominal gains as if they were real.
However, as ridiculous as the phony GDP number was, yesterdays biggest joke was a report on global competitiveness put out by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which ranked the U.S. economy as the worlds most competitive. To arrive at this conclusion, the forum has obliterated the obvious under a mountain of theory. In determining country rankings, the WEF weighed strengths in their "12 Pillars of Competitiveness", including: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market sophistication, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation. Completely ignored however are the measurable results of competitiveness, notably a trade surplus and a strong currency.
It is as if the WEF decided to judge a weight loss contest without using a scale, by instead focusing only on mental attitude, dedication, perseverance, and nutritional education! As a result the prize is awarded to the fattest contestant. Based on the empirical evidence of a gargantuan trade deficit, staggering global indebtedness, and a declining currency, the United States is clearly not the most competitive economy in the world.
It means no one has tomorrows Wall St Journal today.
You been to the grocery as of late?
The price of everything not made in china is up
Pharmaceuticals, like aspirin and antibiotics, are made from petroleum derivatives. Bandages, surgical implants, hearing aids, tubing, and more....
I have indeed been to the grocery store, at several times during 2007Q3, and noticed no change of noticeable significance over that time. Especially a change occurring purely in 2007Q3. That doesn't mean there hasn't been a change, just that I did not observe one.
You've measured this statistically? Established that the increase is significant? Or is this the same "anecdotal" test that everyone else seems to be using?
You do also realize, I hope, that your grocery store could have a different set of prices for goods as other grocery stores? Like I told others, "Milk went up at MY grocery store by X" is not a counterargument to "0.8% inflation". If anything, it's consistent with that. You say inflation has occurred, and so does the government statistician. What's the dispute?
If your dispute is that you think it MUST BE more than 0.8%, then you'd have to actually talk numbers. But that would require measuring things, gathering data, doing calculations. Much easier just to pretend that "anecdotal" argument is sufficient.
mylife, I see that you have already posted. Tell your friends ;-) Cheers!
Im seeing 25% increases in foodstuffs and I shop around
a buck and a buck 25 is still a 25% difference
“What I said was that the writer of this article has no argument whatsoever against that statistic.”
Indeed. Schiff has been predicting a total economic collapse “next week” for so long he’s now reduced to saying the stats are faked, and we are in a depression but just dont’ know it. Next he’ll be claiming that there are secret hidden soup lines all over the country and the unemployment rate is really 25%.
Yes, I saw that. And the fact is we are seeing higher prices.
I like your approach on the topic. Who can sustain this need for energy?
Gasoline went up 15c a gal here overnight. Today I was informed that management is demanding we turn out the lights when we arent in a particular work area.
Hmmm...I havent heard talk like that since...1976
See? Inflation is so bad that even the price of stocks is going up! Why, my company's stock has gone up 10% in price just in the past week. Doomed, I tell you, doomed!
Winn-Dixie or A&P?
I concur: Food costs more, fuel costs more and rent is the same or higher.
The ONLY factor that is marginally down is housing PURCHASES. Rent and mortgages are mostly UP!
Okay, *I* have a sinking sense something is not right.
In the real world, the cannery would close the current facility or modernize in place or switch to alternative packaging.
For some reason it remains stuck with 20th Century technology and attempts to disguise the obvious cost imbalance with flimsy chicanery.
Government measurement techniques have been criticized since the 1960's with their use of non typical "typical" grocery baskets of items people use occasionally or limited to certain populations.
The topic was anedotal examples and I produced a classic.
It is possible to do the same with building materials, ammunition, medical expenses, modern technological equipment.
Even with offsets the cost increases do not match the official government figures.
Yes, that is my opinion.
So called experts who want to convince me otherwise by picking fly turds out of black pepper will have a hard row to hoe.
No change of any noticeable significance over the last quarter?
A price rise of over 100% is not noticeable?
I have a tenant with “special needs” who lives on Shreddies and peanut butter.
I used to pay $3.47/box for Shreddies up until about 4 months ago. Last week, the best price I could find for that same size Shreddies container was $8.79.
Either you are FAR more disconnected from the rest of the real world than you realize, or you are being disingenous.
“Why does the fed need to make so much money again?”
To keep the toxic credit derivative bubble intact...
Before you lay the “anecdotal info is not statistically valid” BS on me, I defy you to present ONE grocery item that is NOT more expensive TODAY than it was last year. I will ALSO allow “inflationary” differences.
0.8% my hairy a**. LIes, Damned lies, and statistics. Figures lies, and liars figure.
Can’t Peter just pretend he’s as stupid as the govt. thinks he is?
Agreed. I'll believe we're in financial straights when I start observing a noticeable decrease in the size of American stomachs. The only thing I've observed, anecdotally to be sure, is an increase over the last ten years. And they were pretty large ten years ago. At any time any pessimist can dredge up some negative stats to "prove" that things are really bad. I maintain that a country that has money to buy junk food in large quantities is not a country that is in a depression.
" Here's a fer instance: I supply high carb-high sugar stuff for the afternoon break. Hostess fruit pies, always a popular item, used to be $.99 to $1.09.
Now, they run $1.39 to $1.49 That's just a quick recall, everything else is in envelopes at the bookkeepers. Now these aren't make or break items for my biz, just a reflection of the increase I see in everyday items.
How much of that increase do you suppose is due to increased fuel costs?