On the St. Patrick’s Day "Today" show, NBC’s Ann Curry asked colleague Jim Cramer for his reaction to a new government report showing "consumer prices have jumped." The real numbers actually showed Curry was full of blarney.
"That is not a bad number for [the] consumer price [index]," Cramer told the NBC anchor. Other experts quoted in the media agreed. What Curry considered a "jump" in inflation was actually a significant drop from the previous month’s increase. The February inflation rate fell from 0.7 in January to 0.1 in February. The core rate for CPI, which excludes volatile price factors for fuel and food, also increased at 0.1 percent.
"The housing market is cooling off but not too much, and inflation looks relatively benign," a March 17 Reuters story quoted A.G. Edwards chief economist Gary Thayer. "It suggests that the economy is on a healthy growth plan."
With inflation in check, the cost of borrowing money should also stay in check, said UBS economist James O’Sullivan in the March 17 edition of The New York Times. "There is certainly nothing… to egg the Fed on to keep tightening" interest rates, said O’Sullivan.
Aside from worrying about inflation’s "jump," Curry asked Cramer about the "big negative" of General Motors’ upwardly revised 2005 loss number. "I’m pushing you here, because people are worried. Is that going to be a drag on the market?"
Cramer dismissed Curry’s fears, noting GM’s sliding market share meant it’s no longer a significant part of the American economy. "I’ve got to tell you, I believe the largest auto company in the country will soon be Toyota. I know we don’t think of that as an American company. I think we should," Cramer argued.
Curry didn’t stop there. She tied an uptick in crude oil prices to the March 16 air assault in Iraq. But in placing the blaming the Iraq war, Curry left out how unrest elsewhere in the world has made the oil market nervous, including threats from Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to cut off oil sales to the U.S. The Free Market Project has noted how little the broadcast networks have reported on those threats.
"Oil prices are about 12 percent higher than a year ago, reflecting worries about the stability of supplies from Iran, Nigeria and elsewhere," the Associated Press reported on March 17.