Two pieces of economic data came out today.
First, the unemployment claims went up 24,000 to 399,000 – just 1,000 convenient claims shy of the all important 400K number. This led to a delicious exchange on CNBC’s Squawkbox between Obama loving, liberal economist Steve Liesman and Tea Party instigator Rick Santelli.
Good thing they weren’t in the same room. It all started with a “throwndown” from Rick Santelli who challenged Liesman’s data on the Labor Participation Rate. Liesman had talked about older people retiring sooner; Santelli debunked him by saying that “the demographic argument you guys are discussing with regard to employment doesn’t hold water. 55 and older are actually staying in the work place; their labor participation rate actually the highest in many decades.”
The host declared it was a throwdown, eliciting further exchange.
“You can argue anything you want with these numbers,” Santelli said, which brought this response from Liesman: “I have a choice to make as to whether or not to believe the leading economists in the country or Rick Santelli.”
Santelli bit and said, “I tell you what, Steve, why don’t we put a call out to the country and see who believes the president, the economists more than their next door neighbor – you might be surprised by that, too.” He continued, “You’re talking to the wrong people, Steve. You know you can say a thousand economists say something, you know what I care about that, absolutely nothing,” Santelli said, making a big zero with his hands.
Liesman said what about a thousand traders? “That’s the people who should be basically running…”
Santelli interrupted, saying he didn’t care about them either. He said he spent three hours pouring over the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers and “I did it myself, so you can outsource your brain to a bunch of people you don’t know… Anytime you want to debate you can bring your thousand economists and I’ll bring a $2 calculator and an internet connection.”
After the testy exchange they moved on to the second piece of economic data – the retail December sales number which was up .1% instead of the up .3% they had expected.
Zero Hedge observed:
The horrendous jobs update was only one part. The other one focuses on actual consumer spending, as confirmed by the major miss in retail sales which were up 0.1% on expectations of 0.3%, but the entire gain was due to car purchases primarily driven by cheap govt-funded subprime credit for GM vehicles. Sales ex-autos actually declined by 0.2%, on an expectation of 0.3% rise: this was the first decline and worst print since early 2010. So much for the consumer-led recovery. And so much for the unemployment pick up.
In the report, department store sales were actually down .02 and general store sales down .08. Remember when all those analysts were trumpeting Christmas sales? It seemed then that it was a chimera. It was.