Data be damned, Wall Street says all is well

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Wall Street strategists who normally live and breathe data are now pushing a curious new narrative: Don't believe the data.

More specifically, it's become routine practice lately to disparage economic numbers as being not representative of underlying strength that the headlines just don't seem to verify.

The weak third-quarter gross domestic product growth was just an inventory drawdown. A decline in corporate profits turns into growth when you just throw out the numbers (in this case from energy companies) that you don't like. Even undeniably weak manufacturing numbers that are edging ever closer to recession territory are, in the words of one economist, merely "carving out a bottom" that will soon be reversed.

Why all the contradictory views?

One of the big problems is not necessarily intellectual dishonesty but rather of an economy that finds itself at a crossroads: The Federal Reserve last week upgraded its assessment of spending and investment to "solid" while also conceding that employment growth has slowed and that it still isn't time to lift the central bank's key interest rate off near-zero, where it's been for nearly seven years.