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September 13, 2006

A Warning Sign In The Deficit Report?

I guess how you feel about today's news on the August federal deficit report depends on your perspective.  Reuters led with the observation that the ink was a little redder than expected...

The U.S. government posted a larger-than-expected $64.61 billion federal budget deficit in August as outlays for the month were at a record high, a Treasury Department report showed on Wednesday.

The August deficit compared with a $51.33 billion deficit in August 2005.

Wall Street economists polled by Reuters were expecting a $61.15 billion deficit for the month.

... while AFX News Limited (via Forbes) kicked off with a cheerier perspective:

The federal deficit through August held below last year's level and continued on its course for a smaller yearly deficit this year than last, the Treasury Department said.

The government posted a budget deficit of 64.6 bln usd in August, compared to expectations of a 67 bln usd monthly deficit.

Through the first 11 months of the budget year, the deficit was 304.3 bln usd, down 14 pct from the same period in 2005, when it totaled 354.1 bln usd.

I don't doubt that someone out there in blogland will point out that, in the even longer run, the federal budget remains in a state of some disrepair.  But, for the moment, I am decidedly focused on the short run, and trying to figure out exactly how the economic outlook is evolving.  From that perspective, this detail from Action Economics (subscription required) is not encouraging:

Receipts were weak, declining 1.0% or $1.6 bln to $153.9 bln.  Weakness was led by a drop in individual income.  This marks the first time since April of 2004 that receipt growth has been negative.

OK, I'll remind myself that one month does not a trend make, and maybe encourage myself with this report, from Greg Ip and Christopher Conkey at The Wall Street Journal Online:

The recent drop in oil prices could provide a welcome and surprising boost to consumer pocketbooks this fall, cushioning the economy from a falloff in home prices and construction while venting an important source of inflation pressure.

The easing of energy prices is an unexpected -- and little-noted -- positive amid economic anxiety over falling housing activity, previous energy-price increases and the possibility of recession.

Crude oil was at $77 a barrel as recently as early August. Yesterday, the price of the October crude-oil future contract settled at $63.76, a near six month low, down $1.85 from Monday, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Ahh.  I feel better already.

UPDATE: Jim Hamilton surveys the prospects for oil and gas prices and comes up with a happy face.  And Felix Salmon shows Jim is not alone!

September 13, 2006 in Data Releases, Energy, Federal Debt and Deficits | Permalink

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Comments

Dave,

Do you know where AE found this data:

"Weakness was led by a drop in individual income. This marks the first time since April of 2004 that receipt growth has been negative."

??

Posted by: Movie Guy | September 14, 2006 at 12:26 AM

The fall in income taxes owed to a one-time correction for an accounting error that had been occuring over the past few years, as well as one fewer Mondays than normal. See the always excellent CBO Monthly Budget Review

Posted by: rana | September 14, 2006 at 03:30 PM

"Ahh. I feel better already."

Uh, huh.

Pull up a comfortable chair, tear open those Ritz crackers and get ready for this disaster:

Black Friday kicks off at 7 AM (EDT).
http://www.ford.com/en/company/sepWebcastDetails.htm

More general news
http://media.ford.com/

Sales information
http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ticker=F&script=404&layout=-6&item_id='406'

Better yet, pass that unopened Blue Bell over this way. Yeah, that one. The new flavor.

It's going to be a rough day. The bars will be packed tomorrow night in many communities. I'm thinking that they will get an early start.

>

Posted by: Movie Guy | September 14, 2006 at 05:55 PM

rana -- thanks for that.

MG -- well, I do like beer and crackers.

Posted by: Dave Altig | September 14, 2006 at 09:17 PM

Dave: Not so fast (re: I feel better already). You missed the important point of Ip's story. (Granted it was the second to last graf!): "The falling price of oil also may be an ominous sign if it reflects decreased global demand, which would indicate decreased economic activity."
Or do you think the lower price is coming from the supply side? Somehow i doubt it. -cb

Posted by: Caroline Baum | September 15, 2006 at 02:00 PM

Caroline -- I actually do think it is sort of a supply shock -- witness the recent discovery of greater oil reserves and positive noises from OPEC. And to the extent that reduced demand is involved, I chalk some of that up to adjustments to higher prices rather than substantially weaker growth. I guess lower expected growth in the US and the ECB does come into play, but the world growth forecast was actually marked up by the IMF this week. So I'm still tentatively comfortable.

Posted by: Dave Altig | September 15, 2006 at 03:55 PM

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Posted by: yuntrip | September 28, 2006 at 09:35 PM

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