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Up and In. High and Tight.

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. -- Picture yourself on a boat on a river ... with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.

And then the March


numbers come bobbing by.


The PMI.

This thing rose for four straight quarters through the end of last year; it gave back six-tenths of a percentage point during the quarter just ended. Yet any comfort the slowdown types take in such a pause is misplaced. Check out the nugget the NAPM released with today's numbers.

The past relationship between the PMI and the overall economy indicates that the average PMI for the months of January through March (56.3%) corresponds to a 5% annual increase in real gross domestic product (GDP). However, if the PMI for March (55.8%) turned out to be the annual average for 2000, this would correspond to a 4.8% increase in GDP.

The economy is still very much thumping ... and it's carrying loads of momentum heading into the second quarter.

The prices index.

This thing's risen during 14 of the last 15 months. It now stands at a level not seen in just over five years.

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This index rose by a cumulative 38.1 points -- from a trough of 49.0% in September 1993 to a peak of 87.1% in December 1994 -- during the last tightening cycle; the increase came against a central bank that doubled its policy rate -- to 6% from 3% -- in a year.

This time round it's already increased by more than that (47.6 points) in the same amount of time (15 months) against policy action that's proven much less aggressive (only 1.25 percentage points in nine months, and only half a percentage point if one excludes the three take-back tightenings).

G. Love is known to cherish these private-sector data. As such, it will seem somewhat silly to suggest that the end of the tightening cycle's in sight for as long as input prices continue to behave how they've been behaving. Last month, for example, the NAPM says that 17 of the 20 industries it covers reported higher prices, and the association's chair notes that the increases are "broader-based" than just energy. He cites "lots of pricing power in a lot of industries."

The export and import indices.

Subtracting the latter from the former yields a decent trade proxy. This construct just posted positive back-to-back quarterly increases for the first time in almost three years.

Trade, then, which has subtracted an average 1.13 percentage point from the economy's growth rate over the past two years, looks to serve as less of a drag going forward (for the time being, anyway).

Side Dish

Lakers-Knicks yesterday?

Childs is a sissy.

Childs for president.

Spike? Sit the f___ down.

Twenty-four minus nine-and-a-half equals money.

Van Horn who?