The folks on the Inkstain Economics Desk point to an intriguing puzzle, in the form of 22 shipping containers out behind the neighborhood MegaWalMart this morning.
We’ve long used the Cheap Shit From China index (CSFC) here at Inkstain as a crude but useful economic barometer. The premise is this: WalMart has better data than just about anyone else on aggregated consumer behavior. They also operate their entire system on incredibly tight margins. In the case of the neighborhood MegaWalMart, that includes minimal back end storage space. A number of years ago,
I the Inkstain Economics Desk noticed while out on a bike ride while doing their routine data collection that during the holiday shopping season, inventory was spilling out the back of the MegaWalMart, stored temporarily in big shipping containers. So in a sort of random, half-assed fashion, I the rigorous fashion they’re known for, our analysts began counting shipping containers, using it as a visible index of the things WalMart is forecasting about our aggregated economic behavior.
Here’s the problem.
We know New Mexico’s economy is sucking wind, its economic recovery, by one measure, lagging behind every other state in the nation. Yet the CFSC Index stands at 22, an unusually high number for this time of year.
I can see two possibilities. One is that WalMart knows something the Philadelphia Fed doesn’t, and that the CSFC Index could be viewed as a promising leading indicator. The second, which seems more likely, is that the CSFC Index has broken down, perhaps because WalMart is simply leaving empty containers sitting out there because there’s no real demand for them anywhere else. Maybe they’re just sitting there empty. Evidence in support of this is the fact that the containers this morning looked kinda rusty and unused.
I’ve directed the Inkstain economic analysts to
go on more bike rides begin updating the data more frequently.