It was another busy day for data announcements yesterday.

Yesterday saw the latest revelation of the CBI’s retail barometer survey, while in the US, key indicators on US consumer confidence and house prices saw the light of day.

Last month, the CBI’s distributive trades survey was awful. Don’t fret too much, we were told, the timing was bad; it only measures a two-week period, and it missed the Christmas rush.

Well, the good news, the January index improved, rising from minus 55, to minus 47. The thing is, minus 47 is still one of the lowest scores ever recorded by the CBI.

The CBI index was pretty pessimistic all of last year, which had led some to say its survey tends to show readings that are too low. More to the point, the CBI index for tracking expectations fell to its lowest level ever in January.

Meanwhile, the US consumer confidence index from the Conference Board fell to a record low in January. With a score of just 37.7, its January score was less than half the level seen a year ago, and less than a third of the level seen 18 months ago.

It does seem that this index has provided a good foretaste of the underlying trends in the US economy.

Finally, the Case-Shiller index for tracking house prices in the 20 largest cities in the US fell by 2.2 per cent in November, which means prices fell by 18 per cent over the year.

Alan Greenspan has said the economy will not begin to pick up until house prices reach bottom.

CBI retail US consumer confidence

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