Financial data reported by mainstream media were once mercifully simple and brief. Reporters might tell us that interest rates had risen a quarter of a point, or that the unemployment rate had dropped a tenth of a point, or that the dollar had risen slightly against the German mark. But now, even on general news segments, we are bombarded with details once considered too technical even for seasoned financial industry professionals.
I watched recently as one of television’s talking heads reported that although the monthly trade deficit had dropped, the movement should not be interpreted as a positive sign. Why? Because export figures contained a large commercial aircraft shipment that markets had known about for months in advance. Another correspondent told me that the rise in the wholesale price index should be discounted heavily, because 34 percent of it was attributable to movements in traditionally volatile energy components of the index.