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WORKING WITH STATISTICS

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Trade Balance
The trade balance is a measure of the difference between imports and exports of tangible goods and services. The level of the trade balance and changes in exports and imports are widely followed by foreign exchange markets.
The trade balance is a major indicator of foreign exchange trends. Seen in isolation, measures of imports and exports are important Indicators of overall economic activity in the economy.
It is often of interest to examine the trend growth rates for exports and imports separately. Trends in export activities reflect the competitive position of the country in question, but also the strength of economic activity abroad. Trends in import activity reflect the strength of domestic economic activity.

Typically, a nation that runs a substantial trade balance deficit has a weak currency due to the continued commercial selling of the currency. This can, however, be offset by financial investment flows for extended periods of time.
Gross Domestic Product
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the broadest measure of aggregate economic activity available. Reported quarterly, GDP growth is widely followed as the primary indicator of the strength of economic activity.
GDP represents the total value of a country's production during the period and consists of the purchases of domestically produced goods and services by individuals, businesses, foreigners and the government.
As GDP reports are often subject to substantial quarter-to-quarter volatility and revisions, it is preferable to follow the indicator on a year-to-year basis. It can be valuable to follow the trend rate of growth in each of the major categories of GDP to determine the strengths and weaknesses in the economy.
A high GDP figure is often associated with the expectations of higher interest rates, which is frequently positive, at least in the short term, for the currency involved, unless expectations of increased inflation pressure is concurrently undermining confidence in the currency.
Consumer Price Index
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average level of prices of a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers. The monthly reported changes in CPI are widely followed as an inflation indicator.
The CPI is a primary inflation indicator because consumer spending accounts for nearly two-thirds of economic activity. Often, the CPI is followed but excludes the price of food and energy as these items are generally much more volatile than the rest of the CPI and can obscure the more important underlying trend.
Rising consumer price inflation is normally associated with the expectation of higher short term interest rates and may therefore be supportive for a currency in the short term. Nevertheless, a longer term inflation problem will eventually undermine confidence in the currency and weakness will follow.
Producer Price Index
The Producer Price Index (PPI) is a measure of the average level of prices of a fixed basket of goods received in primary markets by producers. The monthly PPI reports are widely followed as an indication of commodity inflation.
The PPI is considered important because it accounts for price changes throughout the manufacturing sector.
The PPI is often followed but excludes the food and energy components as these items are normally much more volatile than the rest of the PPI and can therefore obscure the more important underlying trend.
Studying the PPI allows consideration of inflationary pressures that may be accumulating or receding, but have not yet filtered through to the finished goods prices.
A rising PPI is normally expected to lead to higher consumer price inflation and thereby to potentially higher short-term interest rates. Higher rates will often have a short term positive impact on a currency, although significant inflationary pressure will often lead to an undermining of the confidence in the currency involved.
Payroll Employment
Payroll employment is a measure of the number of people being paid as employees by non-farm business establishments and units of government. Monthly changes in payroll employment reflect the net number of new jobs created or lost during the month and changes are widely followed as an important indicator of economic activity.

Payroll employment is one of the primary monthly Indicators of aggregate economic activity because it encompasses every major sector of the economy. It is also useful to examine trends in job creation in several industry categories because the aggregate data can mask significant deviations in underlying industry trends.
Large increases in payroll employment are seen as signs of strong economic activity that could eventually lead to higher interest rates that are supportive of the currency at least in the short term. If, however, inflationary pressures are seen as building, this may undermine the longer term confidence in the currency.
Durable Goods Orders
Durable Goods Orders are a measure of the new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. Monthly percent changes reflect the rate of change of such orders.
Levels of, and changes in, durable goods order are widely followed as an indicator of factory sector momentum.

Durable Goods Orders are a major indicator of manufacturing sector trends because most industrial production is done to order. Often, the indicator is followed but excludes Defense and Transportation orders because these are generally much more volatile than the rest of the orders and can obscure the more important underlying trend.
Durable Goods Orders are measured in nominal terms and therefore include the effects of inflation. Therefore the durable Goods Orders should be compared to the trend growth rate in PPI to arrive at the real, inflation-adjusted durable Goods Orders.
Rising durable Goods Orders are normally associated with stronger economic activity and can therefore lead to higher short-term interest rates that are often supportive to a currency at least in the short term.
Retail Sales
Retail Sales are a measure of the total receipts of retail stores. Monthly percentage changes reflect the rate of change of such sales and are widely followed as an indicator of consumer spending.
Retails Sales are a major indicator of consumer spending because they account for nearly one-half of total consumer spending and approximately one-third of aggregate economic activity.
Often, Retail Sales are followed less auto sales because these are generally much more volatile than the rest of the Retail Sales and can therefore obscure the more important underlying trend.
Retail Sales are measured in nominal terms and therefore include the effects of inflation. Rising Retail Sales are often associated with a strong economy and therefore an expectation of higher short-term interest rates that are often supportive to a currency at least in the short term.
Housing Starts
Housing Starts are a measure of the number of residential units on which construction is begun each month and the level of housing starts is widely followed as an indicator of residential construction activity.
The indicator is followed to assess the commitment of Builders to new construction activity. High construction activity is usually associated with increased economic activity and confidence, and is therefore considered a harbinger of higher short-term interest rates that can be supportive of the involved currency at least in the short term.

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