I was just looking at the CNBC app on my Blackberry (this tells you everything you need to know about me), and I noticed an alert that said the Beige Book for December had just come out.
The Beige Book is produced by the Federal Reserve eight times a year, and is an anecdotal assessment of how the economy is doing in each of the Fed's districts. We are in the Richmond district, along with a bunch of other southern and border states.
The Beige Book is kind of what it would be like if you were with a bunch of Fed officials at a bar after work, and they were talking about what they'd heard from around the country: I talked to a car dealer in Kansas City, and he said business was picking up. This guy who runs a small real estate business in Atlanta says he's had an uptick in showings. This guy who operates a rug factory in Alabama says orders are down.
It's about as close to a real-time look at the economy as you can get, and it's better, in my view, than a lot of economic statistics that are often a little old and not always reliable. Although you'll get an argument on that.
By the way, if you want to see what other economic reports are coming out this month, the AP produces a nifty calendar you can access here.
The biggie for this week will come at 8:30 on Friday morning, when the Labor Department releases employment data for November. One hint as to what this will say may have come from a private company, ADP, that releases its own survey of hiring. ADP said today that small businesses were doing the most hiring in three years. That's one of the reasons the stock market popped today. Whether the Labor Department report confirms the ADP trend remains to be seen.