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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

CNN Money Gets the Consumer Confidence Headline Backwards

Here's the headline on a story online at CNN Money:

Consumer confidence falls
Conference Board's consumer survey shows larger decline in March than forecast by economists.

March 29, 2005: 10:43 AM EST

This article is contradictory. The first line is consistent with the headline, but that's not the point of the story. Here's a quote from the story illustrating its main theme:

Economist Mark Vitner of Wachovia Securities said that in recent weeks economists and investors had been preparing for a much weaker reading than the published consensus forecast of 103, due to a weak number from a similar survey by the University of Michigan as well as weaker-than-expected economic reports.

"There was a huge sign of relief when the number came in above 100, and that's why the market rallied," Vitner said. "There was a thought that the combination of rising interest rates and higher gas prices would knock it below 100."

The story doesn't say that consumer confidence shows larger decline in March than expected by economists. It says just the opposite.

This consumer's confidence that the press can get even the most basic things correct, like a headline that accurately reflects the article it describes, continues to fall.

[Update - In the comments, Scooter notes another instance, last weeks release of the CPI, where the press misreports what numbers mean:

The headline was correct, but not the whole truth. The consensus forecast was 103.0, but the fear was that the number could come in much lower than that. Similar to equity analysts, economists have "whisper numbers." The headline should have read "...larger decline than expected, but not as bad as feared." Incidentally, the Gallup Poll survey of consumer attitudes and the weekly ABC / Wash-Post Consumer Comfort Index both showed sharp declines in the last couple of weeks.

Yet, the point of the post -- that the press needs to do a better job -- goes without saying. Take last week's impressions of the CPI (core up 0.26% -- 0.3% after rounding), which was reported as a sharp increase.]

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    Posted by on Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 06:21 AM in Economics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (1)


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