Friday, October 10, 2008

When Bad Data Stays Bad

I'm going to be doing a bit of extrapolating here with this little item regarding the housing market in the US that I culled from the increasingly fluffy Actually, I might be doing a LOT of extrapolating, perhaps even some exaggerating, but probably not as much as I wish I was.

Here's my interpretation and assessment of quite a few of the American people: They're morons. Here's my interpretation and assessment of the National Association of Realtors: They're morons. Here's my interpretation and assessment of those "from the government who are here to help us": They're morons. And my interpretation and assessment of those over at Shocking absolutely no one, I think they might be morons, too.

The article from CNNMoney reports "The National Association of Realtors says pending home (sales) rose 7.4% from July to August". (I had to put the word 'sales' in there, since the geniuses over at left it out. Ah, the days when an online publication could afford a copy editor. Where did they go? Where was I? Oh, right, morons.) Oh, did it now? These "realtors" that they speak of, these are the same realtors who were selling anything and everything that they could to anyone who wanted to buy something? Those realtors? The ones who were making a killing off of their commission by participating in and facilitating the sales of homes to people who could not afford them and will not ever be able to afford them? Those realtors? OK, just checking. I just wanted to make sure that we can believe what they say. Clearly, from their past history, we can.

The article goes on to say "...its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes rose to 93.4 from an upwardly revised July reading of 87." Of course, since not everyone is a shady realtor and not everyone knows what that "reading" number actually means and therefore, it would be helpful to include that sort of information in the article, naturally, did not. So I have no idea what an 87 means. Or a 93.4, for that matter. You could have told me the "reading" was "14974.367" and I would have said, "OK, is that good?" You could have told me the "reading" was "blue" and I would have said, "OK, is that good?" I have no idea.

But then, when it goes on to say that, now, in the middle of economic disaster (disaster that could have been prevented. Oh, sorry. I just feel the need to throw that in all the time. It's still snarky, but it sounds a lot better than "I told you so".) that "The reading was the highest since June 2007" . OK, see, I do know what that means. It means that someone is either a) lying, b) twisting data to make it fit their narrative, c) an idiot, or d) all of the above. I choose "d". And here's why.
The article continues with "Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR had predicted the index would fall to 84.9. The index, which sunk to a record low of 83 in March, stood at 85.8 in August 2007." (And then the article abruptly ends. That's all folks!) So, economists thought it would fall, but they don't say what it would fall from. But it was at 87 in July and a "record low of 83 in March". Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but 87 and 83 aren't that far apart. So, in March they have a record low and then in August, it's the highest it's ever freaking been AND it's during a time when there's little credit available! It's a miracle! (No, it really isn't.) Are you seeing why I chose "d"?

But actually, the whole numbers-shmumbers thing is kind of unnecessary if we just go back to that first sentence. The part about how the home sales are "pending". See, "pending" doesn't mean "sold". "Pending" means "not sold yet, but we're working on it and as soon as we get some stuff together, we'll get right back with ya!" I could sell a house to my cat and it would be "pending"! (And I don't even have a cat.) You know, we're just waiting for all of the, um, the paperwork, yeah, to come back on the, um, well, cat. Yes, cat. We're waiting for those. Those papers. Cat papers! Papers for a cat! That's what I'm waiting for. And so the sale...the sale itself, it is, um, yeah, pending. For the cat. Who doesn't have papers. Yet.

I'll be interested as to how many of these sales that are "pending" are going to be "sold" to the person to whom they are currently "pending", as I find it next to impossible to believe that everyone who actually CAN afford to buy a house AND can make the payments EVERY MONTH has suddenly rushed out to buy one right before the false bottom that everyone had spent years constructing fell out. I also find it next to impossible to believe that during the months when people were still getting loans left and right (which would leave them with house payments that exceeded their monthly income. And yet, they agreed to that anyway. I always find that to be the strangest part.) that suddenly, all of the people who wanted something they couldn't afford just finally realized that and gave up. I'm not really thinking that either one of those things actually happened. And yet, it's the highest "reading" in over a year. Even higher than the years when even the cat that I don't have could get a mortgage. Amazing. We're saved! (Or doomed. I'm probably going with doomed.)

I'm sticking with "d". There has to be some number twisting going on or Falsie McLies-A-Lot is sending out these news releases. But hey, thanks a lot,, for bringing us those four paragraphs of false hope! Appreciate it! See you in the soup lines!

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