Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Final Grade

Gross domestic product results for the 3rd quarter will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Thursday. The GDP is always issued three times, each with increasing accuracy. Tomorrow's is the final and best set of figures.

I'm a fan of the GDP because it is sort of like a report card on the economy, one that rises above sectors and individual elements to provide a bottom line. And it is sort of a happy report of late, when you consider that the GDP dropped by 8.9% in the 4th quarter of 2008, and current GDP is running around a gain of 2% each quarter.

Despite the GDP's extreme backward looking posture -- I mean, we're getting the 3rd quarter finals a week before the 4th quarter ends -- it is considered to be a major motivator of trading on the markets.

Also out, the most forward looking of reports: The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators, at 10 a.m.

The leading indicators report isn't considered to be very good at predicting turning points, so the market pays little attention to it.

But hey, the index has been trending up since mid-2009. The S&P 500 bottomed in March 2009 and began trending up. If both the index and the market are showing are showing uptrends, then that's a pretty good sign that the uptrend has legs, that it is, in the somewhat old-fashioned terminology sometimes used in trading, a secular bull market.

So I pay attention to it, as a data point to keep the trading lobe of my brain tuned to the big trends, while never using it as a direct indicator to inform my trading. And while always keeping in mind that the markets themselves are the best predictors of the future course of the economy.

Besides, traders use hundreds of chart indicators that predict turning points after the fact. So they've got a gripe with an econ report that does the same?

Anyhow, I'll also be looking out for weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. It's a bit of a butterfly of a report, but it gives some intra-month news about how things are going until the next monthly jobs report is released.

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