The Wall Street Journal reports that existing home sales were down in November. “Without a doubt, there are too many buyers in relation to the sellers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “That is probably the main driver as to why the sales declined.”

I’m not sure this makes any sense—high demand would normally prompt more people to sell, wouldn’t it?—but put that aside. What you really need is some context. Here it is:

Yes, existing home sales were down slightly in November, but the general trend is nothing but upward in recent months: up 23 percent since the beginning of the year and up 14 percent since July. Does this mean that suddenly, on November 1, there were too many buyers? Nah. It just means there’s noise in the data series.

Plus, it turns out that home prices were down slightly in November, which suggests lower demand, not higher. But I’d venture to guess that’s just noise too.

For some reason, both reporters and their sources feel like they have to provide an explanation for everything that happens in the economy on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. This has been going on forever (“The stock market fell on news of an Elvis sighting in Paraguay”), and it’s ridiculous. If there’s a trend to report, fine. But a single blip is really unlikely to have much of a reason behind it. Everyone needs to stop pretending otherwise.

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