A Mess of Misleading Indicators

Why Government statistics sometimes go awry

Statistics are the heavenly bodies of economics. Not only are they used for navigation by businesses, policy planners and researchers but they also exert a powerful pull over the tides of the economy. A high monthly figure for the trade deficit, for example, can send floods of money rushing out of the stock market in a sell-off. The sheer quantity of statistics available is immense. Nearly every business day the U.S. Government releases one indicator or another, from the Consumer Price Index and capacity utilization to retail sales and housing starts. Too often, however, the overall impact of the numbers is...

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