Looking good, America! . . . Er, wait

A new housing development in Upper Marlboro, Md.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Today's Friday, the 24th of August. Glad you could be with us. I'll say that date again, 24th of August. Which means the numbers that came out today for new home sales and durable goods were from July — as in before subprimes and the credit squeeze. Our New York bureau chief Jill Barshay has more.


Reporter: Looking good, America. Sales of new homes climbed 2.8 percent. U.S. factory orders are up nearly 6 percent, the most since September.

But wait a minute, that's old news.

Mark Zandi: The really buoyant data today reflects what happened in July, well before the turmoil in the financial system.

That's Mark Zandi. He's the chief economist at Moody's Economy.com.

Zandi: It really doesn't give us any insight into what's happened since. And what's happened since is a major hit to the economy. We won't really know how major until we get the data over the next couple of weeks.

It'll be September before we know how the storm on Wall Street is affecting Main Street. Economists are waiting for reports on job losses, auto sales and consumer purchases for the month of August.

Mickey Levy is chief economist at Bank of America. He says today's data isn't irrelevant because financial markets were already weakening in July.

Mickey Levy: Despite the financial market turmoil so far through July, durable goods orders were up. And this is important. So don't throw away any month's data.

Brian Bethune of Global Insight says if this data had been weak, he'd be worried about a recession. Instead, he says, we've entered this financial shock from a place of strength.

Brian Bethune: When the largest economy in the world has a good head of steam, it takes more than one large wave to capsize it.

We'll get a couple sneak peeks at real-time data soon to see if these economists are on the money. A weekly jobs report and a consumer survey come out at the end of next week.

In New York, I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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