Economic Indicators

An economic indicator is a statistic about an economic activity. Economic indicators allow analysis of economic performance and predictions of future performance. One application of economic indicators is the study of business cycles. Economic indicators include various indices, earnings reports, and economic summaries. Our traders use this information to get a feel for the direction of the markets in order to provide the best possible advice and products to our clients. The following are U.S. and Canadian economic indicators.

Auto and Truck Sales

* Source: Individual auto manufacturers, seasonal factors by the Commerce Department.
* Release Time: Varies by auto maker from the first business day to the third business day of the month (data for month prior).

Auto and Truck Sales measure the monthly sales of all domestically produced vehicles. They are considered an important indicator of consumer demand, accounting for roughly 25% of total retail sales. Demand for big ticket items such as autos and trucks tends to be interest rate sensitive, making the motor vehicle sector a leading indicator of business cycles.

Each auto maker reports sales individually. The reports are typically released over the course of the first three business days of the month. Using the individual reports, a total annual sales pace can be calculated after applying Commerce Department seasonal factors. It is this annual sales pace that the market refers to when discussing auto and truck sales for the month.

Business Inventories

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 08:30 ET around the 15th of the month (data for two months prior).

The business inventories report includes sales and inventory statistics from all three stages of the manufacturing process (manufacturing, wholesale, and retail). By the time it is released all three of its sales components and two of its inventory components have already been reported. Because retail inventory is the only new piece of information it contains, the market usually ignores the business inventories report.

However, sometimes retail inventories swing enough to change the aggregate inventory profile. This may affect the GDP outlook. When it does, the report can elicit a small market reaction.

The aggregate sales figures are dated and they say little about personal consumption. They are actually a good coincident indicator, but the market is far more interested in forward-looking statistics.

The inventory-to-sales (I/S) ratio measures the number of months it would take to deplete existing inventory at current sales rates. A relatively low (high) I/S ratio may mean that manufacturers will have to build up (draw down) inventory levels. Depending on the strength of final demand and the degree to which recent inventory changes have been intended or unintended, this can have an effect on the industrial production outlook. Note that this information is much more useful to market economists than it is to other market participants.

Construction Spending

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET on the first business day of the month (data for two months prior).

The construction spending report is broken down between residential, non-residential, and public expenditures on new construction. The monthly changes are both volatile and subject to huge revisions, so this report rarely has any market impact. Only trends extending over three months or more can be viewed as significant.

The spending figures are calculated in both nominal and real (inflation adjusted) figures by economists to forecast the investment component of quarterly GDP. The annualized percent changes between the quarterly averages of these two components match up well with residential investment and commercial structure changes in the GDP accounts.

Consumer Confidence

Conference Board Consumer Confidence

* Source: The Conference Board.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET on the last Tuesday of the month (data for current month).

The Conference Board conducts a monthly survey of 5000 households to ascertain the level of consumer confidence. The report can occasionally be helpful in predicting sudden shifts in consumption patterns, though most small changes in the index are just noise. Only index changes of at least five points should be considered significant. The index consists of two subindexes - consumers' appraisal of current conditions and their expectations for the future. Expectations make up 60% of the total index, with current conditions accounting for the other 40%. The expectations index is typically seen as having better leading indicator qualities than the current conditions index.

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

* Source: The University of Michigan.
* Release Time: Preliminary: 10:00 ET on the second Friday of the month (data for current month); Final: 10:00 ET on the fourth Friday of the month (data for current month).

The Michigan index is almost identical to the Conference Board index, though there are two monthly releases, a preliminary and final reading. Like the Conference Board index, it has two subindexes - expectations and current conditions. The expectations index is a component of the Conference Board's Leading Indicators index.

Consumer Credit

* Source: Federal Reserve.
* Release Time: 15:00 ET on the fifth business day of the month (data for two months prior).

This monthly measure of consumer debt is volatile and subject to massive revisions. It is also released well after every other consumer spending indicator, including weekly chain store sales, auto sales, consumer confidence, retail sales, and personal consumption. For these reasons, the market almost never reacts to the consumer credit report.

Consumer credit is broken down into three categories: auto, revolving (i.e., credit card), and other. Since we already have indications on total consumer spending well before this release, there is little to be gained from learning what portion of spending was financed through acquisition of debt. Periods of strong spending can be accompanied by relatively weak credit growth and vice versa, so this measure fails even as a coincident or lagging indicator

CPI: Consumer Price Index

* Source: Bureau of Labor statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET, about the 13th of each month for the prior month.

The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the price level of a fixed market basket of goods and services purchased by consumers. CPI is the most widely cited inflation indicator, and it is used to calculate cost of living adjustments for government programs. It is the basis of COLAs for many private labor agreements as well. It has been criticized for overstating inflation, because it does not adjust for substitution effects nor does it reflect price changes in new technology goods which are often declining in price. Despite these criticisms, it remains the benchmark inflation index.

CPI can be greatly influenced in any given month by a movement in volatile food and energy prices. Therefore, it is important to look at CPI excluding food and energy, commonly called the "core rate of inflation". Within the core rate, some of the more volatile and closely watched components are apparel, tobacco, airfares, and new cars. In addition to tracking the month-to-month changes in core CPI, the year-to-year change in core CPI is seen by most economists as the best measure of the underlying inflation rate.

Durable Goods Orders

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the 26th of the month (data for month prior).

The durable orders release measures the dollar volume of orders, shipments, and unfilled orders of durable goods (defined as goods whose intended lifespan is three years or more). Orders are considered a leading indicator of manufacturing activity, and the market often moves on this report despite the volatility and large revisions that make it a less than perfect indicator. These problems can be minimized by looking at the breakdown of orders. The total number is often skewed by huge increases in aircraft and defense orders. An increase based solely on strength in one sector tends to be discounted, while the market is more impressed with broadbased increases in orders.

Also notable in this report is the narrow category of nondefense capital goods. These goods mirror the GDP category producers' durable equipment (PDE) -- the largest component of business investment. Shipments of nondefense capital goods are a good proxy for PDE in the current quarter, while nondefense capital goods orders provide an indication of PDE growth in the quarters ahead.

Employment Cost Index

* Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
* Release Time: 8:30 ET, near the end of the first month of the quarter for the prior quarter.

Since the employment cost index was mentioned by Fed Chairman Greenspan in July 1996, it has risen into the upper echelon of economic reports in the eyes of the bond market. Its lagging nature still leaves it as a less timely indicator of employment cost trends than the monthly hourly earnings data in the employment report. But the ECI does add something to this picture: an adjustment for shifting employment between industries, and a look at benefit costs. These additions are interesting, but typically do not alter the view of the employment cost picture which was left by hourly earnings. ECI will be much less closely watched during periods when wage inflation is not a serious market concern.

The market focuses on the quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year changes in each of three categories: total employment costs, wages and salaries, and benefit costs. The figures are sometimes skewed by large year-end bonuses in the financial industry; analysts often exclude the sales commission component of wages and salaries to adjust for this factor.

The Employment Report

* Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
* Release Time: First Friday of the month at 8:30 ET for the prior month

The employment report is actually two separate reports which are the results of two separate surveys. The household survey is a survey of roughly 60,000 households, which produces the unemployment rate. The establishment survey is a survey of 375,000 businesses, which produces the nonfarm payrolls, average workweek, and average hourly earnings figures, to name a few.

The reports both measure employment levels, just from different angles. Due to the vastly different size of the survey samples (the establishment survey not only surveys more businesses, but each business employs many individuals), the measures of employment may differ markedly from month to month. The household survey is used only for the unemployment measure - the market focuses primarily on the more comprehensive establishment survey. Together, these two surveys make up the employment report, the most timely and broad indicator of economic activity released each month.

Total payrolls are broken down into sectors such as manufacturing, mining, construction, services, and government. The markets follows these components closely as indicators of the trends in sectors of the economy; the manufacturing sector is watched the most closely as it often leads the business cycle. The data also include breakdowns of hours worked, overtime, and average hourly earnings.

The average workweek (also known as hours worked) is important for two reasons. First, it is a critical determinant of such monthly indicators as industrial production and personal income. Second, it is considered a useful indicator of labor market conditions: a rising workweek early in the business cycle may be the first indication that employers are preparing to boost their payrolls, while late in the cycle a rising workweek may indicate that employers are having difficulty finding qualified applicants for open positions. Average earnings are closely followed as an indicator of potential inflation. Like the price of any good or service, the price of labor reacts to an overly accommodative monetary policy. If the price of labor is rising sharply, it may be an indication that too much money is chasing too few goods, or in this case employees.

Existing Home Sales

* Source: The National Association of Realtors.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET around the 25th of the month (data for month prior).

The name speaks for itself - this report provides a measure of the level of sales of existing home sales. The report is considered a decent indicator of activity in the housing sector. Housing starts precede this report each month, but starts are a supply rather than demand-side indicator. Existing home sales precede the other key demand-side indicator of housing - new home sales - thus boosting the visibility of this report. Sales are highly dependent on mortgage rates, and will tend to react with a few months lag to changes in rates. Sales are also determined by the level of pent-up demand for housing - immediately after a recession, sales are typically quite strong due to the demand which accumulated through the recession.

The survey sample for existing home sales is larger than that of new home sales, making it somewhat less susceptible to large revisions. Both reports can see huge month-to-month swings in winter, when bad weather can significantly affect sales.

Aside from total sales, two other indicators are worth watching in this report -- the inventory of homes for sale and the median price. The inventory of homes for sale at the current sales pace is the inventory/sales ratio of the housing sector. For example, a 5.0 figure for inventory/sales indicates that the supply of homes for sale would be depleted within five months at the current sales pace. The lower this figure goes, the greater the need for new housing starts. The year/year change in the median price provides a good indication of inflation in home prices.

Factory Orders

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET around the first business day of the month (data for two months prior).

Factory orders consist of the earlier announced durable goods report plus non-durable goods orders. The report is very predictable with nondurables the only new component. Nondurables consist of such items as food and tobacco products which grow at a fairly consistent monthly rate, so that market forecasts for this report are far more accurate than for the durable orders report. In addition to seeing nondurables for the first time, the market also watches for revisions to the durable orders data, which can be significant. At present, durable goods orders sum to about 54% of total orders.

The final piece of new information in this report is factory inventories -- the first glimpse at the inventory picture each month (wholesales inventories are typically released a week later, with retail inventories released a few days after wholesale inventories). Though the inventory figure is not a market-mover, economists use this number to help forecast inventories in the quarterly GDP report.

GDP: Gross Domestic Product

* Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: Third or fourth week of the month at 8:30 ET for the prior quarter, with subsequent revisions released in the second and third months of the quarter.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the the broadest measure of economic activity. Annualized quarterly percent changes in GDP reflect the growth rate of total economic output. The figures can be quite volatile from quarter to quarter. Inventory and net export swings in particular can produce significant volatility in GDP. The final sales figure, which excludes inventories, can sometimes be helpful in identifying underlying growth trends as inventories represent unsold goods, and a large inventory increase will boost GDP but might be indicative of weakness rather than strength. The broad components of GDP are: consumption, investment, net exports, government purchases, and inventories. Consumption is by far the largest component, totalling roughly 2/3rds of GDP.

In addition to the GDP figures, there are GDP deflators, which measure the change in prices in total GDP and for each component. Though the consumer price index is a more closely watched inflation indicator, the GDP deflator is another key inflation measure. Unlike CPI, it has the advantage of not being a fixed basket of goods and services, so that changes in consumption patterns or the introduction of new goods and services will be reflected in the deflator.

With both GDP and the deflator, the market tends to focus on the quarter/quarter change. Year/year changes are also cited frequently, though they do not provide the most timely indications of economic activity or inflation. The bond market often reacts to GDP, though the price moves are typically small, as much of the GDP data is easily predicted using monthly economic releases such as personal consumption, durable goods shipments, construction spending, international trade, and inventories.

Quarterly GDP reports are broken down into three announcements: advance, preliminary, and final. After the final revision, GDP is not revised again until the annual benchmark revisions each July. These revisions can be quite large and usually affect the past five years of data.

Housing Starts and Building Permits

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the 16th of the month (data for one month prior).

Housing Starts are a measure of the number of residential units on which construction is begun each month. A start in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building and is comprised primarily of residential housing. Building permits are permits taken out in order to allow excavation. An increase in building permits and starts usually occurs a few months after a reduction in mortgage rates. Permits lead starts, but permits are not required in all regions of the country, and the level of permits therefore tends to be less than the level of starts over time.

The monthly national report is broken down by region: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. Briefing recommends analyzing the regional data because they are subject to a high degree of volatility. The high volatility can be attributed to weather changes and/or natural disasters. For example, an unexpectedly high level of rain in South could delay housing starts for the region.

Industrial Production

* Source: Federal Reserve.
* Release Time: 9:15 ET around the 15th of the month (data for month prior).

The index of Industrial Production is a fixed-weight measure of the physical output of the nation's factories, mines, and utilities. Manufacturing production, the largest component of the total, can be accurately predicted using total manufacturing hours worked from the employment report. One of the bigger wildcards in this report is utility production, which can be quite volatile due to swings in the weather. Severe hot or cold spells can boost production as increased heating/cooling needs drive utility production up.

In addition to production, this monthly report also provides a measure of capacity utilization. Though the rate of capacity utilization is seen as a critical gauge of the slack available in the economy, the market does not completely trust this measure. Capacity is very difficult to measure, and the Fed essentially assumes that growth in capacity in any given year follows a straight line. One can therefore predict the capacity utilization rate quite accurately based on the assumption for production growth. The 85% mark is seen as a key barrier over which inflationary pressures are generated, but given revisions to these data and the difficulties with capacity measurement, the 85% mark should be viewed cautiously. It would be appropriate to look for corroborating inflation indications from commodity prices and vendor deliveries.

Initial Claims

* Source: The Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET each Thursday (data for week ended prior Saturday).

Initial jobless claims measure the number of filings for state jobless benefits. This report provides a timely, but often misleading, indicator of the direction of the economy, with increases (decreases) in claims potential signalling slowing (accelerating) job growth. On a week-to-week basis, claims are quite volatile, and many analysts therefore track a four week moving average to get a better sense of the underlying trend. It typically takes a sustained move of at least 30K in claims to signal a meaningful change in job growth.

There are two other statistics in this report -- the number of people receiving state benefits and the insured unemployment rate; neither is watched closely by the market. Some analysts track the number of people receiving state benefits from month to month as a guide for job growth, though this series has a poor track record in predicting the monthly employment report. The insured unemployment rate changes little on a weekly basis and is never a factor for the market.

International Trade

* Source: The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the 20th of the month (data for two months prior).

The trade report is most widely watched for trends in the overall trade balance. But trends in both exports and imports of goods and services bear watching as well. The export data in particular are important to watch for indications that a strengthening competitive position at home and/or strengthening economies overseas are boosting U.S. growth. Imports provide an indication of domestic demand, but given the severe lag of this report relative to other consumption indicators, it is not particularly valuable for this purpose.

The volatility in the monthly trade balance can play an important role in GDP forecasts. Net exports are a relatively volatile component of GDP, and the trade report provides the only early clues to the net export performance each quarter.

Leading Indicators

* Source: The Conference Board.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the first few business days of the month for two months prior.

The Leading Indicators report is, for the most part, a compendium of previously announced economic indicators: new orders, jobless claims, money supply, average workweek, building permits, and stock prices. Therefore, the report is extremely predictable and of very little interest to the market. Though this series does have some predictive qualities, it is a common criticism that it has predicted "nine of the last six" recessions.

The Commerce Department recently privatized the leading indicators series. The collection and publishing of these data is now done by the non-profit Conference Board, which also produces the consumer confidence index.


* Source: Federal Reserve Board.
* Release Time: Every Thursday at 16:30 ET, data for the week ended two Mondays prior.

Money supply figures, and M1 specifically, once were the most important release to watch in the Treasury market, as the Fed directly targetted M1 growth in the early 1980s. The focus on money supply has long since been abandoned, however. To the extent that money supply is still monitored by the market, M2 is the favored monetary aggregate. The Fed still targets both M2 and M3 in a rhetorical sense, but these targets mean little when it comes to policy decisions. If the Fed misses its target, it is more likely to change the target than it is to change policy. With M2 velocity behaving more predictably since 1994, however, some Federal Reserve policy makers are once again keeping an eye on M2. Intermediate and long term trends should therefore be noted, but volatile weekly swings are of little consequence to the market.

NAPM: National Association of Purchasing Managers

* Source: National Association of Purchasing Managers.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET on the first business day of the month for the prior month.

The NAPM report is a national survey of purchasing managers which covers such indicators as new orders, production, employment, inventories, delivery times, prices, export orders, and import orders. Diffusion indexes are produced for each of these categories, with a reading over 50% indicating expansion relative to the prior month, and a sub-50% reading indicating contraction.

The total index is calculated based on a weighted average of the following five sub-indexes, with weights in parentheses: new orders (30%), production (25%), employment (20%), deliveries (15%), and inventories (10%).

The NAPM is one of the first comprehensive economic releases of the month, typically preceding the employment report. Though it covers only the manufacturing sector, it can often provide accurate hints regarding the tone of subsequent releases. During periods of inflation concerns, the prices paid and vendor deliveries indexes often determine the bond market's reaction to the report.

New Home Sales

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET around the last business day of the month (data for month prior).

The report indicates the level of new privately owned one-family houses sold and for sale. New home sales usually have a lagged reaction to changing mortgage rates. They also tend to be stronger early in the business cycle when pent-up demand is strong, and they fade later in the cycle as the demand for housing is sated. In addition to home sales, the market monitors the number of homes for sale relative to the current sales pace. As this inventory measure falls (rises), housing starts tend to rise (fall). Finally, the median home price provides an indication of inflation in the housing sector, though only year/year changes provide any meaningful information.

The home sales report is quite volatile and subject to huge revisions, making any one month's reading very unreliable. The report rarely prompts a market reaction. The market prefers the existing home sales report, which has a sample data pool four times as large and is released earlier in the month.

Personal Income and Consumption

* Source: The Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the first business day of the month (data for two months prior).

Personal income measures income from all sources. The largest component of total income is wages and salaries, a figure which can be estimated using payrolls and earnings data from the employment report. Beyond that, there are many other categories of income, including rental income, government subsidy payments, interest income, and dividend income. Personal income is a decent indicator of future consumer demand, but it is not perfect. Recessions usually occur when consumers stop spending, which then drives down income growth. Looking solely at income growth, one may therefore miss the turning point when consumers stop spending.

The income report also includes a section covering personal consumption expenditures, also known as PCE. PCE is comprised of three categories: durables, nondurables, and services. The retail sales report will provide a good read on durable and nondurable consumption, while service purchases tend to grow at a fairly steady pace, making this a relatively predictable report, and ranking it well below retail sales in terms of market importance.

PPI: Producer Price Index

* Source: Bureau of Labor statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
* Release Time: Around the 11th of each month at 8:30 ET for the prior month.

The Producer Price Index measures prices of goods at the wholesale level. There are three broad subcategories within PPI: crude, intermediate, and finished. The market tracks the finished goods index most closely, as it represents prices for goods that are ready for sale to the end user. Goods prices at the crude and intermediate stages of production often provide an indication of coming (dis)inflationary pressures, but the closer you get to crude goods, the more that these prices track commodity prices which are already available in traded indexes such as the CRB (Commodity Research Bureau).

At all stages of production, the market places more emphasis on the index excluding food and energy, referred to as the core rate. Food and energy prices tend to be quite volatile and obscure trends in the underlying inflation rate. Though the market reaction is determined by the month/month changes, year/year changes are also noted by analysts. The index is not revised on a monthly basis, but annual revisions to seasonal adjustment factors can produce small adjustments to past releases.

Productivity and Costs

* Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the 7th of the second month of the quarter (data for quarter prior).

Nonfarm productivity and costs provide measures of the productivity of workers and the costs associated with producing a unit of output. During times of inflationary concern, the unit labor cost index in this report can move the market. If productivity is falling, unit labor costs may be rising faster than hourly earnings and other labor cost measures. Because productivity can be quite volatile from one quarter to the next and because the previously released GDP report will give a good indication of productivity growth, this report seldom has a significant impact on the market.

In addition to the preliminary report, a revision to the productivity data is released in the third month of each quarter. As with the preliminary report, the GDP data released prior to the productivity data provide a clear indication of the direction of the productivity revision.

Regional Manufacturing Surveys

* Source: Varies - Purchasing managers' organizations and Federal Reserve banks.
* Release Time: Varies. Philadelphia Fed at 10 ET on the third Thursday of the month for the current month. Chicago PMI on the last business day of the month for the current month.

There are many regional manufacturing surveys, and they tend to be ranked in order of timeliness and the importance of the region. The Philadelphia Fed's survey is first each month, actually coming out during the third week of the month for which it is reporting. Several smaller surveys are then released before the Chicago purchasing managers' report on the last day of each month. A few, such as the Atlanta and Richmond Fed surveys, are released after the NAPM and are of little value. The purchasing managers' reports are measured like the national NAPM - 50% marks the breakeven line between an expanding and contracting manufacturing sector. For the Philadelphia and Atlanta Fed indexes, 0 is the breakeven mark.

These surveys can be of some help in forecasting the national NAPM - particularly the Philadelphia and Chicago surveys which are more closely watched due to their timeliness and the fact that these regions represent a reasonable cross section of national manufacturing activities.

Retail Sales

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 8:30 ET around the 13th of the month (data for one month prior).

The retail sales report is a measure of the total receipts of retail stores. The changes in retail sales are widely followed as the most timely indicator of broad consumer spending patterns. Retail sales are often viewed ex-autos, as auto sales can move sharply from month-to-month. It is also important to keep an eye on the gas and food components, where changes in sales are often a result of price changes rather than shifting consumer demand.

Retail sales can be quite volatile and the advance reports are subject to rather large revisions. Retail sales do not include spending on services, which makes up over half of total consumption. Total personal consumption is not available until the personal income and consumption reports are released, typically two weeks after retail sales.

Treasury Budget

* Source: U.S. Treasury Department.
* Release Time: 14:00 ET, about the third week of the month for the prior month.

The monthly Treasury budget data follow strong seasonal patterns which produce huge month-to-month fluctuations in the deficit. These fluctuations tell us little about long term budget trends. To the extent that the market analyses the monthly Treasury data, the focus is on year/year changes in receipts and outlays, since the data are not seasonally adjusted. Only in April, the most important month for tax inflows to the Treasury, does the market pay any attention to this report. The data can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by using daily data in the Daily Treasury Statement.

Weekly Chain Store Sales

* Source: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and LJR Redbook
* Release Time: Mitsubishi: 9:00 ET each Tuesday (data for week ended prior Saturday); Redbook: 14:55 ET each Tuesday (data in the form of a running monthly total for the week ended prior Saturday).

Note that the release times for these private surveys are the official embargo times. The releases are provided to subscribers much earlier and typically leaked to the rest of the market long before these official release times. Mitsubishi is typically leaked by 8:00 ET, and the Redbook survey is usually known in the market by 14:15 ET.

The Mitsubishi chain-store sales index is based on a representative sample of nine large retailers and measures sales on a weekly basis. The index is relatively volatile from week to week and therefore has little to say about broader consumption patterns. Mitsubishi also produces a monthly measure of sales, which does a better job of predicting a few pieces of the retail sales report (particularly the general merchandise and apparel components).

The LJR Redbook survey tracks 15 retail stores every week to determine the changes in sales. The report is month to date where: the first week of the month is compared to the previous month; the second week compares the first two weeks of the month to the previous month, and so on. The Redbook survey has a somewhat better track record for predicting chain store sales in the monthly retail sales report.

Wholesale Trade

* Source: The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
* Release Time: 10:00 ET around the fifth business day of the month (data for two months prior).

The wholesale trade report includes sales and inventory statistics from the second stage of the manufacturing process. The sales figures say close to nothing about personal consumption and therefore do not move the market.

Wholesale inventories sometimes swing enough to change the aggregate inventory profile (aggregate inventory is the sum of inventory at the manufacturing, wholesale, and retail levels), which may affect the GDP outlook. In that event they can elicit a small market reaction. More often than not, however, this release goes unnoticed except by market economists.