Bloomberg

By Tom Blumer | February 17, 2014 | 3:28 PM EST

NOTE: Go to the end of this post to see my reaction to an email NB received from OpenSecrets.org. 

The web site OpenSecrets.org has done a great deal of useful work. Especially helpful are its lists of high-dollar political campaign donor organizations.

The web site's 1989-2014 and 2012-specific lists, to name just two, demonstrate that the hyperventilating on the left and in the establishment press about the eeeevil Koch Brothers is completely out of line:

By Tom Blumer | February 8, 2014 | 4:11 PM EST

One of the more annoying aspects of business press reporting is its participants' singular focus on seasonally adjusted data to the exclusion of the underlying figures.

Many reports on the economy at least tag the figures reported as seasonally adjusted; but there seems to be a trend away from doing even that. For example, the Associated Press has routinely labeled weekly initial jobless claims as seasonally adjusted (examples from about a year ago are here, here, and here), but Thursday's adjusted claims figure of 331,000 and the 348,000 from a week earlier went unlabeled (as seen here and here, respectively). Additionally, none of the three main wire services (AP, Bloomberg, Reuters) described yesterday's reported increase in employment as "seasonally adjusted" (though the AP's Christopher Rugaber did report that the unemployment rate of 6.6 percent was seasonally adjusted). In failing to do so, they all were in essence telling readers that the economy really added 113,000 jobs in January. The truth is that it lost over 2.8 million of them:

By Tom Blumer | February 3, 2014 | 11:53 PM EST

After opening the day at about the same level as Friday's close, the three major U.S. stock indices fell by over 2 percent Monday (DJIA, -2.08%; S&P 500, -2.28%; NASDAQ, -2.61%).

About half of the rout took place in the first 30 minutes after the 10:00 a.m. release of two reports, one on manufacturing activity and the other on construction spending. The former, from the Institute for Supply Management, showed that its January Manufacturing Index came in at a mildly expansive 51.3% (any reading over 50% indicates expansion), down by over 5 percentage points from December and missing expectations by 4.7 points. The latter, from the Census Bureau, showed that seasonally adjusted construction activity barely budged in December. The market's decline continued throughout the rest of the day as disappointing news on January car sales rolled in. As will be seen after the jump, inclement January weather got a disproportionate share of the blame in the business press for these really weak results — an explanation which clearly didn't impress the markets.

By Tom Blumer | January 31, 2014 | 3:12 PM EST

The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters all focused on the supposedly positive news of increased consumption reported in today's "Personal Income and Outlays" release from the government's Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the process, two of the three ignored a particulary dreadful statistic about disposable income, while the third (Bloomberg) misinterpreted its meaning.

The dire statistic is the year-over-year comparison of monthly disposable income, which took a deep dive in December, turning in the worst year-over year performance as seen here, in 40 years:

By Tom Blumer | January 28, 2014 | 11:12 AM EST

There was another appearance of the dreaded U-word ("unexpectedly") this morning at Bloomberg News.

The Commerce Department's advance report on December durable goods orders and shipments showed a seasonally adjusted 4.3 percent decrease in orders from November, while November was revised down from a positive 3.4 percent to 2.6 percent. Economists' median prediction for December was for a 1.8 percent increase. Bloomberg's Victoria Stilwell had an excuse at the ready, and as will be seen, chose to use it even though she knew it was a stretch (bolds are mine throughout this post):

By Tom Blumer | January 12, 2014 | 10:08 PM EST

Following up on Friday's awful jobs report from the government (only 74,000 seasonally adjusted jobs added, with the unemployment rate dropping to 6.7 percent only because adults continued to leave the workforce), the Asssociated Press's Christopher Rugaber tried to search for excuses.

To its credit, the headline at Rugaber's report didn't blatantly dissemble like the one at Bloomberg, which, in revising the title of an underrated Stevie Wonder song from the 1970s ("Blame It on the Sun"), blamed it on the cold and snow: "Old Man Winter Put a Chill on U.S. Labor Market at End of 2013." But the AP reporter predictably failed to entertain the possibility that Obamacare's virtual chaos, plan cancellations, and impending 2014 premium hikes might have thrown a great deal of sand into the job market's gears, even though a virtual halt in healthcare hiring stuck out like a sore thumb. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

By Tom Blumer | January 3, 2014 | 9:16 PM EST

Discouraging headlines are appearing about the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, the war U.S. troops won in 2008. Bloomberg News notes, "Al-Qaeda Fighters Take Fallujah as Iraqi Army Attacks." The Washington Post reports that an "Al-Qaeda force captures Fallujah amid rise in violence in Iraq."

At the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, the headline writers are apparently more interested in making sure that as few readers as possible take an interest in the story, based on the non-descriptive headline they have chosen to employ:

By Tom Blumer | December 30, 2013 | 9:47 PM EST

Bloomberg Businessweek and others are trying to capitalize on the difficulties United Parcel Service and to a lesser extent Fedex had in delivering packages in time for Christmas to claim that the U.S. Postal Service is coming out of it smelling like a rose ("An Unlikely Star of the Holiday-Shipping Season: The U.S. Postal Service").

Not so fast, people. Let's be extremely generous and take it as a given that the Post Office didn't have any late arrivals, and that it deserves props for delivering 75,000 packages on Christmas Day. It's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison, but based on the quoted number of packages UPS planned to deliver on Christmas Eve, the private company's package volume, particularly its air package volume, dwarfs that of the Post Office, and would overwhelm it if it tried to pull off what UPS routinely does:

By Tom Blumer | December 19, 2013 | 12:31 PM EST

Bringing on yet another appearance of the dreaded "U-word" — "unexpectedly" (via Bloomberg) — the Labor Department reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 379,000. That's a nine-month high, and an increase from last week's also unexpected 369,000. This week's and last week's results were far above the 332,000 and 320,000, respectively, analysts had predicted.

The Department of Labor's excuse for the past two dismal weeks has been "holiday volatility." Though they mostly had a point last week, this week they don't. Last week was the week after Thanksgiving, while that holiday took place six days earlier in 2012. But the week ended December 14, 2013 and the comparable week from last year (12/15/12) are both sufficiently removed from Thanksgiving's influence on the numbers that the holiday has no meaningful impact. The business press is pretending that DOL is right.

By Noel Sheppard | December 16, 2013 | 4:18 PM EST

Now I really have seen everything.

On Monday, Bloomberg View columnist Caroline Baum actually said that to get young people to sign up for ObamaCare, in states where it's legal, the Administration should give them marijuana:

By Tom Blumer | December 13, 2013 | 11:57 PM EST

In mid-November, Americans for Tax Reform compiled a list of federal spending on state Obamacare exchanges totaling a breathtaking $4.5 billion.

One number on the list stands out from the rest — and it's not California's, though its $910 million amout is awful, disproportionate, and surely highly wasteful (before considering scalability concerns, the fixed costs of building a web site should be close to the same regardless of a state's population). The big eye-catcher is tiny Vermont's staggering $208 million. The nation's second-least populous state (626,000 as of 2012) has 0.2 percent of the U.S. population, but has received 4.6 percent of grants from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Though the Green Mountain State's enrollment numbers have been among the country's least embarrassing on percentage of the population, its exchange's rollout has in many ways been as bad, if not worse, than HealthCare.gov's, according to a December 10 Vermont Public Radio report which has garnered very little attention (HT Megan McArdle at Bloomberg News; bolds are mine):

By Tom Blumer | December 4, 2013 | 11:10 AM EST

On November 19, Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a congressional committee that "[W]e still have to build the payment systems to make payments to issuers in January" for those who have enrolled in plans through HealthCare.gov.

On Black Friday, while almost no one was paying attention, Alex Nussbaum at Bloomberg News reported that "The administration is setting up a temporary process ... (in which) insurers will estimate what they are owed rather than have the government calculate the bill." Somehow, they'll settle up (or "true up") at the detailed level later. Tuesday evening, Roberta Rampton and Caroline Humer at Reuters covered this development. The Reuters item, which went live about an hour before Megyn Kelly's broadcast last night, moved the Fox News host to treat it as her lead story.