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Investing Specialists

Data Not Quite as Good as It Looks

Don't get too excited over recent improved numbers--some of the statistics are just good luck.

The economic news flow this week was almost nonexistent. Markets remained basically unchanged as investors awaited the results of yet another European summit. Despite all the troubles in Europe, U.S. exports to the region continued to grow, according to the latest trade report.

Back in the U.S., the services economy, which had shown some nice improvement this summer, paused as consumers appeared to opt for more cars and sharply discounted retail goods instead of service-related offerings. Weekly retail figures would also seem to indicate that strong retail sales over the Black Friday period were no fluke. The International Council of Shopping Centers indicated that weekly retail sales for the period ending Dec. 2, 2011, were up 3.8% from a year ago. Initial unemployment claims and a Conference Board report both showed an improving labor market too.