Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stop Listening

Yesterday in a fit of multitasking I was reading economic analysis on the computer screen while listening to the news on the radio. "Existing home sales unexpectedly rebounded 5.1% in February it was reported today...," I heard.

At precisely the same moment I was reading, "Existing home sales fell 4.6% it was reported today." That is about as close as one can get to the spin cycle in full force.

The National Association of Realtors has been among the most egregious of distorters in the past year. Mark Twain spoke long ago of liars, damned liars and statistics. The NAR makes his hundred year old commentary more useful now than ever.

Real Estate is a seasonal industry. Each year home sales reach lows in winter months and begin to regain ground throughout spring and summer. To compare February sales to January is meaningless, to report it as anything else is dishonest. The country could use some positive economic news without a doubt, but to continue to erode trust with misleading information is maddening.

This is precisely the sort of nonsense and doublespeak that we do not need. We've heard it from politicians, bankers, investment pundits. Citibank is "making" money says the CEO of Citibank. Real Estate is moving higher, says the President of the NAR. "Toxic Assets" yesterday have been rechristianed, "Legacy Assets." This is called "talking your book" in trading speak. Lately talking one's book is standard operating procedure in a CYA society. Maybe P.T. Barnum was right. You can fool some of the people all of the time.

February existing home sales FELL in February from the PREVIOUS February. I did not notice in the NAR press release that foreclosures soared in February and sales prices plummeted.

Is it any wonder people find it increasingly difficult to trust sources of information that should provide objective reporting? I expect next year we'll see, "toy sales soar in December from lower November!" "Lawn mowers showed strong signs of renewed growth in March following lackluster February." We will likely drown in this sea of worthless misleading drivel. So much for the information age.

John Barnyak