A jolt we can live with

What a pleasant surprise February auto sales turned out to be.

Most analysts expected another 12-million-plus month, the fifth straight. The bets were also on the SAAR sagging a bit from the 12.6 million rate of January and December.


February landed with a 13.4 million SAAR. Auto sales are an important macro-economic indicator, and in this environment analysts are watching pretty closely. They check every bit of data out there. A few prognosticators even track daily dealer transactions.

Missing SAAR forecasts by more than 200,000 is increasingly rare. So where’d the extra million come from?

 Credit fell out of the sky.

That is, lenders suddenly swung open the lending gates that have been squeaky tight so long, suggests TrueCar.com’s Jesse Toprak.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Everybody has been expecting it to happen. Dealers here and there have been hinting at it. But as a data stream it’s hard to read in real time, so it’s only at month-end that the indirect evidence – higher vehicle sales – show up on datamongers’ charts.

Instead of focusing on a fuel-price spike or worrying that Congress’ abrupt switch from creating jobs to cutting deficit spending will stunt the recovery, suddenly we find ourselves with a car sales surge.

Unexpected. Unanticipated.

I think we’re OK with that.

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