Data Roundup

Some recent tidbits of economic data that I haven’t had time to comment on:

The US trade deficit hit $46 billion in April. That’s a huge number. No one really knows how huge. I mean really, who actually can grasp how big a million is, much less a billion, much less 46 billion? (I’m feeling a bit like Douglas Adams at this point, but nevermind.) Yet still, I can’t get worked up about a big trade deficit like the US currently has. Trade deficits can be good and can be bad, just like a trade surplus can be good or bad. I think the US has plenty of other more fundamental, underlying problems to worry about.

Import prices rose 0.2% in April, which was a rather small increase (for which we can thank the stronger dollar in April). But still, for the past year import prices are up 4.6%, which goes some way toward explaining the recent rise in inflation in the US.

Oil prices have continued their climb, and crude oil is now nearing $41 per barrel. Gasoline prices rose in lockstep.

Tax refunds rose an average of just $98 this year compared to last year. That’s a rather smaller number than the optimistic $300 that the Treasury Department had predicted a couple of months ago. But of course since the Treasury Department’s analysts are not influenced by politics, we know that this was just an honest mistake on their part.

That’s all for now.