Wikinvest Wire

AP botches jobless claims as stock driver

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sometimes you get the feeling that there are far too many financial writers out there today with the attitude of "Don't confuse me with the facts, I need my home value to stop falling and my stock portfolio to go higher".

That certainly appeared to be the case the other day when no less than the Wall Street Journal declared a virtual end to falling home prices in a front page story, omitting or downplaying crucial elements such as seasonal adjustments in the pricing data and the long-term nature of housing bottoms.

Another instance of this optimistic bent on markets appeared this morning in an Associated Press report by Stephen Bernard, a piece intended to explain today's remarkable rebound in share prices after faltering the last couple days.

Mr. Bernard not only missed a major development in the jobless claims data, but, he got it completely wrong, initially citing it as a reason why stocks are surging today.

The report has since been updated, but here's how the jobless claims data was portrayed a short time ago.

(Note that the story still uses the same URL, so you're going to have to just trust me that I copied the text a while ago.)

Investors also welcomed a weekly unemployment report that showed the number of Americans continuing to collect unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to 6.2 million. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected that figure to rise to 6.3 million from 6.23 million last week.

The number of new unemployment claims filed increased 25,000 to 584,000, more than expected, though the increase was mostly due to seasonal distortions. Economists were expecting a rise of 16,000.
The report goes on to talk about how investors are looking for reasons to push stocks higher (which certainly doesn't seem to be a problem today) but, it's interesting to see the updated version of the paragraphs in the latest report.
Traders also welcomed a report that the number of Americans continuing to collect unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to 6.2 million. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected that figure to rise to 6.3 million from 6.23 million last week.
No mention of the latest weekly data at all...

While I have no idea as to the motives of Mr. Bernard - for all I know this was an honest mistake - it is interesting that the newly discovered negative news was deleted and not updated in this report that now sits atop the Yahoo! Finance page.

As usual, Bloomberg does a much better job on this subject in this story, one that sheds a completely different light on the latest job market data than portrayed at the AP.
The number of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits last week held below levels seen in late June, before auto-related distortions set in, indicating firings are slowing as the economy stabilizes.

Applications rose by 25,000 to 584,000 in the week ended July 25, higher than forecast, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. More than 600,000 claims were filed every week last month. The number of people collecting unemployment insurance decreased for a third week.

An analyst at Labor said distortions from the timing of auto-plant shutdowns “worked themselves out” of the data last week, returning claims to “trend.” While a resumption in hiring will be slow to materialize, payroll reductions are likely to slow as housing and manufacturing, the areas that led the economy into the worst recession in five decades, steady.
Food for thought, to be sure, about just how unbiased the financial news is these days.

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Anonymous said...

Tim Tim Tim....
Its in EVERYONE'S best interest to believe that the LOWER jobless claims a few weeks back are REAL, and that anything higher is a statistical quirk to be ignored.
Please - get with the program....

barnaby33 said...

Neither story mentions that the falling number of people collecting unemployment is more likely due to them running out of benefits, than finding a job.

Chuck Ponzi said...


I dont' know what you're doing differently, but the quality of your writing has improved considerably. I very much appreciate your improved focus on language and impartial analysis.

Keep up the good work.

Chuck Ponzi

Tim said...

Thanks for noticing...

getyourselfconnected said...

Great catch! I am going to have a great screenshot from Yahoo Fiance up in a post in abit that you may well find very interesting along the "making up reasons for stock increases" line of thought. I hope you and your readers check it out!

I agree with Chuck, some really sharp writing as of late.

Tim said...

Please post a link here (or send me mail) when you've got that up...

getyourselfconnected said...

It is up now:

Near the bottom section, Yahoo Finance was looking for a reason, any reason, for the big move up this morning. I was able to snag the headline and the dollar chart comparison to show. Hope you like it!

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