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On the Current Domestic Economic Headwinds

About Consumer Confidence in October 2010

By Sean G. Todd, Esq., M. Tax, CFP©, CPA

Physicians and all consumers are feeling less confident the longer our economy continues to recover slowly; in fact it is at the lowest level in 7 months [47.5]. Just so you understand the significance of this low number:  a reading of 100 or greater would indicate strong growth; and the index has not reached that level since mid 2007.  

Index Critical

Why is this index critical? Well, two-thirds of the U.S. economy is dependant upon consumer spending.  As confidence falls so to will spending and so to will any sustained economic recovery. Contributing factors include sustained high unemployment and unfavorable business conditions. Few believe any improvement in economic growth is likely to happen in the coming months.  A surprising statistic is that in September, the number of consumers calling business conditions “bad” outweighed those saying conditions are “good” by nearly 6 to 1.  Consumers appear to be waiting on sustained job growth which is not being reported in any sector. 

Questioning the Headwind

Here is why I questioned whether this is really a headwind.  Take a second to digest these one month percentage gains:  37.6%; 33.1%; 28.5%; 27.6% and 25.6%.  Can you think of the companies posting such returns?  Here they are: Carmax, Office Depot, J.C. Penny, Nordstrom and Best Buy, respectively.  Dumbfounded? Carmax is the best performing stock in the S&P500 index this month – not a gold stock or tech company. Carmax sells used cars.  This is sharp contrast to the index number being reported above. I think it is interesting that Costco is not one of the companies named. The index appears to be nothing but a number so should we actually be tracking what consumers do and not how they answer some survey which is the basis for the index number. Or this could just be another case of pent up demand?  The savings rate has risen during this downturn and credit card usage is also down – so some consumers might again feel comfortable making the new purchase commitment after spending the past year being a non-consumer.  

Of course, other analysis may indicate that smaller retailers are not experiencing the same level of renewed activity and the economic outlook still looks grim. It seems it is not going to get a lot worse, just that it is not going to be getter better quick enough for most.

Home Sales

As doctors and most all individuals come to grips with not being able to sell their homes for a value they once thought possible, we are apt to suggest that we might see increased activity in the home improvements sector as individuals just decide to make the upgrade to their existing home while they wait this whole real estate mess out. 

Assessment  

How can all this help you financially?  You are seeing exactly why you cannot base your investment decisions on the latest headline or try to time the market.  Baseball singles and doubles in the investment world will score more runs than trying to hit a home run (timing the market). 

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. So, what is your financial planning strategy for hitting singles and doubles? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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