Calculated Risk: economic news looks good when expectations are so low

Regular readers of this blog know that I rely on Calculated Risk for a lot of basic economic data. CR presents hard data, compiles key numbers into graphs, and generally gives people like me much of what we need to know to make sense of the current state of the economy.

It’s no wonder that Calculated Risk has become one of the nation’s most respected blogs dealing with finance and economics.

I wish, however, that Calculated Risk blogger Bill McBride would provide a bit more commentary, like he does in today’s post: Summary for Week ending Dec 2nd. He writes in part:

Expectations are so low that the U.S. economic data last week looked “good”.

Look at the employment report. There were only 120,000 payroll jobs added in November (although September and October were revised up). This is weak employment growth. [. . .]

Another example of “low expectations” was the ISM manufacturing survey. The survey was at 52.7%, the highest level since June – but this is still weak manufacturing growth during a recovery.

Auto sales are increasing sharply, and hit 13.6 million on a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) basis in November. That is solid compared to recent months and years, but still below the average of over 15 million SAAR from 1984 through 2002 (leaving out the bubble years).

There is much more in the post, which is well worth a read.

With so many economic headwinds, we’re not going to see a booming recovery — it’s just not in the cards. But there’s a danger that as the months and years pass we’ll get so used to the bad news that mediocre news will look good. Any number of commentators have talked or written about yesterday’s release of jobs data for November, but it was mediocre. At best.

Here’s a graph from today’s summary: