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Weekly initial jobless claims were down by 1,000, lowering the four-week moving average to 344,500, decreasing the prior week's revised average of 347,750 by 3,250. These are seasonally adjusted data. The raw data were actually down 190,318 from the previous week. The reason for such a wide gap is principally the adjustment for holiday season retail workers. It's good to look at unadjusted data because those are real people. (I don't ever recall meeting a seasonally adjusted person, although San Diego 's weather might aid in that process.)
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Confounding the experts again, housing starts were up once more. It's expected that housing will run out of steam, but the demographics and interest rates are just too strong a pair of factors to underestimate. Speaking of estimation, this data series has a habit of being revised upward as well. Don't worry, experts, you can get jobs forecasting New England weather.
A Federal Reserve report indicates that total household wealth has reached levels not seen since the peak of the stock markets in the Spring of 2000. That is, increases in the value of real estate and stocks have finally made up for the stock losses, including the NASDAQ dropping from 5200 to 1500. That index is now in the 2100 range, and these data may show that many households avoided at least some of that precipitous drop. This is yet another reminder of the importance of looking at the total context and realizing that most people have portfolios, some of them planned, some of them not. Barring a sudden drop in either stocks or real estate, this is an underreported and very positive turning point for the economy.
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Score at least one for the experts, though. The Conference Board's Leading Economic Indicators were up +0.2%, just as they expected. Growth looks widespread, and the report estimates that GDP for the last half of 2003 looks like it will be in the range of 6% (we already had 8% for the third quarter). The Board adds "...continued growth in the leading index in recent months is signaling that strong economic growth (in the 5.0-6.0 percent range) should persist in the near term."
The Magazine Publishers of America released its "Magazine Reader Experience Study," and it has good information beyond just magazines. Gosh, could it really be that "it makes me smarter" is a driver for people to be loyal to a magazine? Yes. That editorial stuff really matters, even if one cynical accountant I spoke with many years ago referred to it as "unpaid space." Something that would make that accountant happy, though, is that readers actually value advertising. While it seems trite, the report's findings are generally applicable to presentations, sales calls, and all kinds of content creator and audience interactions. The report has lessons for all of us, no matter what medium we use to communicate with our target audiences.
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This week's interview with Stephan Carter of Komori indicated that there
is some increased demand for presses. In my
column of January 9,
I noted that industry profits had hit bottom and were starting a rocky
road upwards. To have that confirmed by some new press orders is indeed
relieving concerns I have had that capital equipment had been paralyzed,
and that there was a chance that it could stay that way for quite a while.
We won't have a reading on 2003's fourth quarter profits until April,
but this bit of news may indicate some reasons to be encouraged. We’ve
got quite a way to go to get close to 2000’s profitability, but
for a long journey like that it helps to be facing in the right direction.
I got a lot of negative feedback when I said this in back in 2001, but
here I go again: There has never been a better time to buy new technology
because the buyer has the upper hand in the negotiations at this time.
Maybe we're seeing some signs that the buyers have finally realized that
fact! If the capital equipment market starts to rebound in a big way,
that position of power will diminish.
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