No August vacation for the stock market

Asian markets are in free fall and Hank Paulson warns of an economic "penalty" -- and that was before the release of the latest bad housing data

Published August 16, 2007 1:36PM (EDT)

After Asian markets tanked -- South Korea, down almost 7 percent; Japan, 2 percent; Hong Kong, 3 percent ...

After Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson acknowledged that the credit crunch "will extract a penalty" on U.S. growth ...

After two consecutive days in which the Dow Jones industrial average fell abruptly ...

Only then does the news arrive, Thursday morning, just as markets in the U.S. were ready to start trading, that housing starts have fallen to a 10-year low. Building permits, an indicator of future activity, also dropped sharply. And to top things off, new claims for jobless benefits rose for the third straight week.

August is generally considered by journalists to be the "no-news month." Not if you're on the economy beat.

If your job requires covering the daily ups and downs of economic data, recent events might impel you to unusual flights of rhetoric. Witness the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Bater, who can't contain himself in his report on housing starts:

"The housing sector is a mess."

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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