Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Consumer Confidence Well Into Recession Territory


The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

The October Consumer Confidence number fell to 39.8. It is once again approaching the all-time lows that occurred at the bottom of the Great Recession. The number has never reached the 90 level since 2009, which is the cutoff for a healthy economy. The continually poor levels of consumer confidence  bring into question whether the last recession ever really ended.

While U.S. consumers are gloomy about almost all aspects of the economy, they are most pessimistic about employment prospects. Only 3% of U.S. consumers think that jobs are plentiful. While it is true that this number could have been lower during the 1930s Depression when millions of ordinary Americans went hungry and were homeless, the lowest possible value is only zero. And the current reading could actually be zero since zero lies within the statistical margin of error for the survey. In contrast, those who say jobs are hard to get came in at 47% and that would definitely had been much higher during the 1930s.

The Present Situation Index — how consumers see the state of the economy currently was a very dismal 26.3 in October. This number has remained at fairly low levels for four years now. What has caused the overall consumer confidence  number to rise has been expectations for a future improvement in the economy. The government and mainstream media has continually told U.S. consumers the economy is getting better and will continue to get better. So, consumers have told the survey takers that don't see things as being in good shape now, but they were hopeful about the future. Consumers are starting to lose hope however. The future expectations number fell from 55.1 in September to 48.7. Apparently, you can only fool the public for so long.

The "don't believe what you see with your own eyes, but believe what the government tells you" efforts are still going strong however. Media reports cited better retail sales and a big stock market rally since early October as indications that the U.S. economic situation is improving. Retail sales may have indeed gone up since they are not adjusted for inflation and higher prices make them look better even if fewer units are being purchased. As for the wild behavior of the stock market, explosive rallies are common in bear markets and not in bull markets. They can also occur at any point because of liquidity injections into the financial system from central bankers in Europe, the UK, and the U.S. as would happen during a banking crisis like the one currently taking place in the EU. They don't last for long however.

No matter how you look at the consumer confidence, the numbers are ugly. They are not just indicating recession, they are shouting recession. Only 11% of Americans think that business conditions are good.  The Present Situations Index has dropped six months in a row. Some of the components are at rock bottom levels. Yet, the government and mainstream media keep reporting that the economy is on track for improved growth in the second half of 2011. How can such diametrically opposed views be reconciled? The simplest way to explain the discrepancy is that someone is lying. Any guesses as to who that might be?

Disclosure: None

Daryl Montgomery
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

1 comment:


Its hard to be confident in this economy.