‘No’ Vote: Consumer Confidence A Drag On Markets

Consumers are issuing a big vote of "no confidence" in the economy — and that's holding back the stock market.

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Late August is traditionally a time for much of Wall Street types to hit the beach, and this week is no different. Maybe that’s one reason why the stock market was so calm through mid-day trading on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 110 points in moderate trading; the big story of the day centered in commodities where the price of oil is up (to $107 at 1 p.m.) on reports that the Libyan military conflict may be drawing to a close.

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But with few major economic reports — otherwise known as “Hell from above” by Wall Street traders these days – landing on the markets this week, the prospects for a quiet week are pretty good, at least until Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s much-anticipated speech from Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday.

In the meantime, investors would do well to check out the latest batch of consumer confidence numbers, if they have the stomach for them. Fresh data out right now shows that the recent spate of lousy economic news, coupled with a broad retreat in stock prices so far this month, has hammered away at consumer confidence.

Consumer Edge’s monthly survey of 2,500 U.S. consumersis out with a new report on the July numbers – even before the stock market slid into a ditch during the first three weeks of August – that shows consumer spending in serious decline. The analytical firm shows a 10% decline from June and a 1.5% dip just from a snapshot Consumer Edge took of the consumer landscape on Aug. 10.

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Consumer Edge also estimates that the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index, out Aug. 30, would show a fall of 8-10 points, from 59.5 in July.

What’s most interesting – and alarming – is the steady drip, drip, drip coming from consumers of all stripes. The firm says that percentage-point declines in consumer confidence are rising, but are fairly consistent from group to group. Here’s a quick look:


Incomes                                                % decline in July

$40,000-and-under                                      – 10%

$40,000-to-$100,000                                 – 11%

$100,000-and-Up                                         – 7%

Business owners                                            – 5%

Source: Consumer Edge


Until some good news appears, on either the legislative or economic fronts, consumers will have little faith in the immediate economic future.