Thursday, December 22, 2011

Econ Report: Virtue is Bad

Friday is fulsome with interesting econ reports.

Two to kick off the day,

First, durable goods at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. This is a national confidence report of sorts. If people and corporations (who not people) are willing to shell out for costly goods that can be amortized over a period of years, that means they are confident that things will be better going forward. The opposite response is to keep funds in liquid assets and cash, producing a decline in durable goods sales.

Second, the awkwardly named personal income and outlays report, also at 8:30 a.m. I would call it the official Getting and Spending Report. It's a measure of future consumption, in a way. Subtract the spending from the getting, and the result is the saving.

A negative savings rate, which the arbiters of morality decry, means people are spending more, which can only be good for businesses, which will rush around and create new jobs to meet the demand for products.

A positive savings rate, considered to be a sign of virtue by the moral arbiters of our society, means people are spending less -- perhaps they are worried about the future -- and businesses will start handing out pink slips. (Merry Christmas, workforce!)

So this report, above all, proves that virtue is bad for us, and the less virtuous we are, the better it is for us and our neighbors.

Later in the day, at 10 a.m., new home sales. This is the smaller part of the market. Old homes (or least homes that have been previously owned) are the greater portion. Rising new home sales could mean increasing prosperity and hope in America's households. Or it could mean that developers are taking a haircut by lowering the price sufficiently to sell some of those newly built homes that have languished unsold through this recession.

The bond markets close early on Friday, at 2 p.m. Eastern. The stock markets will trade until their regular closing time, at 4 p.m. Eastern. But typically on such a day stock trading slows to a crawl.

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