Imagine what it would be like if you reported retail sales from December to January this way: Headlines would misleadingly state: “Retail sales plummet 65%!” That is why with highly seasonal data series, the preferred methodology is to report year-over-year data—not month-to-month variations.

Have a look at what the existing home sales, non-seasonally adjusted, look like.

Every February for the past 4 years has seen a sizable increase over January.

The NAR is notorious for spinning their data. I am sorry to inform the WSJ that their reporters got snookered.

All told, this one aspect of an otherwise fine article was not up to the WSJ’s usual standards.

Barry Ritholtz,
CEO; Director of Equity Research,
Fusion IQ
The Big Picture
New York, New York


An author of the story, James R. Hagerty, didn’t have a comment. To us, though, the reader’s judgment seems useful but a little harsh. In fact, the NAR does seasonally adjust its numbers. Plus a Journal sidebar and chart did include the year-to-year change.










NAR stats are generally accepted, for better or worse, as is the trade group’s method of adjusting them.

But, yes, it probably would have been good to include the long view in the main story.

The reader asserts that the January-to-February bump happens every February and is therefore meaningless. The Journal found the stat meaningful, a judgment that seems within its editorial perogative. After all, the February bump happened.

And here is some fan mail for Ryan:

Ryan,


Thanks for the sharp, tight roundup this morning on the headlines about the economy.

I’m writing a story about inflation here in the heartland, where there is still some doubt about how bad it is.

You help me do my job better.

Jere Downs
staff writer, Business
Louisville Courier-Journal
Louisville, Kentucky

Elinore Longobardi’s piece on the demise of the local business section drew a lot of mail, including this:

We just published our last Sunday Business section and we’ve folded our stand-alone weekly Business section inside Local two days a week. Who knows what’s next? So far we haven’t lost any jobs—though open positions aren’t being filled Needless to say, this CJR story made the rounds fast here.

Linda Rawls
staff writer, Business
The Palm Beach Post
West Palm Beach, Florida

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.