Consumer confidence sinking
Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly dropped in November as the loss of jobs threatened to undermine the biggest part of the economy.
The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary sentiment index decreased to a three-month low of 66 from 70.6 in October…
Rising joblessness puts the economy at risk of slipping into a vicious circle of firings and declines in consumer spending that will limit the emerging recovery.
I don’t pay as much attention to consumer confidence as I do to some other economic data because I have yet to see enough statistically significant correlations between confidence and future economic paths. However, I do realize there is a connection having recently posited the following about a term I coined unemployment rate illusion:
behavior changes in accordance with the nominal numbers used as economic signposts in an economy…
The parallel of money illusion to unemployment rate illusion is that a higher posted rate of unemployment can have a serious negative impact on consumer confidence and personal consumption (think balance sheet recession). All else being equal, higher unemployment rates mean lower confidence and consumption…
- If people see 12-13% in 2010, they will be floored, angry, and looking for someone to blame. As Democrats control Washington, they will get the lion’s share of the blame and lose big time in 2010.
- Making matters worse, this is the kind of shock that causes people to put their checkbooks away and go home for the night a.k.a sending us into a double dip recession.
So I am concerned that we are going to se a relapse. (Note: I have moved from seeing a double dip recession as a 1/3 chance to a base case scenario). My optimism about recovery is now fading.
Unfortunately, similar downbeat confidence numbers are also coming from the Conference Board index which unexpectedly fell in October:
The Consumer Confidence Index, released by The Conference Board, sank unexpectedly to 47.7 in October — its second-lowest reading since May.
Forecasters predicted a higher reading of 53.1. A reading above 90 means the economy is on solid footing. Above 100 signals strong growth.
The index has seesawed since reaching a historic low of 25.3 in February and climbed to 53.4 in September.
The connection to markets comes again via David Rosenberg from this past October 29th who I seem to be quoting a lot recently. In reference to the Conference Board numbers, Rosenberg said (highlighting added):
So many people are deluding themselves that we have some sort of durable recovery on our hands and yet consumer confidence, at 47.7 in October, is unbelievable — the lowest this every got in the 2001 recession, which included the 9-11 terrorist attacks, was 84.9. Think about that for a second. If the equity market is catching on to the view that we could be in for some slowing in the data, then a significant correction after a 60% surge is very likely. This is a time to be raising cash if you haven’t done so already — valuation, technicals, fund flows and fundamentals at this juncture are all near-term obstacles.