(Bloomberg View) -- On Monday, I cast doubt on the many stories about how Black Friday retail sales were off to a disappointing start. This is an important story because retail is such a critical part of the U.S. economy, and because such a large share of the industry's sales occur during the roughly five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But the more important point -- at least for my purposes -- is that the initial reports, thanks to the National Retail Federation, are a case study in how to obtain meaningless data and then put it to bad use.

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