Is the rate of cent production telling us that a recession is approaching?
I know you can drive yourself crazy with financial news debating the health of the economy.
This, I hope will be constructive.
Yesterday I was checking out the monthly Mint circulating coin production for a story in Numismatic News. Cents always dominate these numbers. But the August figure was much less dominant.
Only 52 percent of the monthly output was cents.
For the first eight months of 2016, the average percentage was 56. Whoa, a drop of 4 percent I thought. Significant.
For the full year 2015, the average percentage was 55.
in 2014 the average was 61.
In 2013 it was 59 percent.
It looks like cent output in percentage terms is working its way lower year by year. Was August an acceleration of the trend?
With my attention thus captured, I decided to look back at each month of 2016 production.
The monthly trend looked interesting as I worked my way backwards.
July was 51 percent; June, 56 percent; May, 54 percent; April, 56 percent; March, 65 percent, and February 66 percent.
Just as I was thinking a significant trend was being established, case closed, I worked out the percentage for January.
It came in at 54 percent. Darn.
There are logical seasonal reasons for this. January is when the Mint cranks out half dollars and dollar coins whereas in other months the figures are either zero or very tiny.
The America the Beautiful quarter series ramps up in January to give us the new designs in a timely way. In other months this quarter number backs off.
In February the quarter number really backed off. The January output number was almost 469 million quarters. February’s figure was just under 14 million. Talk about a monthly fall off a cliff.
The effect of these special January circumstances on the percentage of output of cents is huge.
So are the July and August numbers signaling anything, a recession perhaps?
Other than the steady decline of cash payments, the August cent output number is probably signaling nothing at all.
If you want to worry about the economy, you will have to look elsewhere.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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