I had to make sure that the Conference Board, which issues one of the most closely watched consumer confidence reports each month, didn't issue some kind of update during the day after telling us in the morning that its reading for March came in at 70.2, down from 71.6 in February.
Nothing changed. But oh how the Associated Press's headlines about the Board's reported results changed in successive dispatches authored by the wire service's Anne D'Innocenzio, as seen after the jump from Google News listings:
The same source report from the Conference Board went from "falls" to "dips slightly" to "roughly flat" to "rosy" in the space of roughly ten hours (from the time of the report's issuance). You can't make this up.
Here are several paragraphs from the 7 p.m. version:
A later paragraph notes that "The measure is still significantly below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy - a level the index has not been near since the recession began in December 2007. But the current reading is a long climb from the 40 figure it hit last October, not to mention its all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009." So why, if the reading is so far below "health," are things so flippin' "rosy"?
The survey's cutoff date was March 15. Gas prices have risen another nine cents nationwide since then, and about 20 cents since the midpoint of the February-March reporting period. If they keep going, and if seasonally adjusted job additions continue to come in at 200,000 or so, we'll see whether gas prices continue to be so allegedly unimportant.
I hope that AP is done massaging its headline. I don't I could bear looking at a different headline a few hours from now, lest I lose dinner after seeing that a drop in consumer confidence -- slight, but a drop -- foreshadows a booming summer or something even more insufferably absurd.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.