After spiking to 6%, savings rates for consumers have fallen and are now back to 3% as of August. We are still however off the lows of 1% savings rate. Are consumers back to their spending ways again? Or are these one off effects of government programs like "clunkers" and the $8000 credit for homebuyers?
While many skeptics will point to the latter scenario, and they may be correct (see the drop in annualized auto sales back to 9mil units from 14mil units in the heat of "clunkers"), who knows when the Fed and the government will take their foot off the stimulus pedal? They have all the incentives and the capabilities to print more moolah. Again, skeptics may laugh at the government's capability to take on more debt to subsidize the economic recovery, but the dethronement of the US dollar as reserve currency won't happen overnight, and global economies have limited options as to where to put their foreign reserves.
The fact is, the US won't turn into a producing/manufacturing economy overnight, while countries in Asia and the Middle East will continue to be producers for the long-term. The only way to balance things out is for them to invest in US securities... including debt. So it looks like the US government and the Fed will keep on rolling out programs to revive consumer spending as they have no choice, and it's not a matter of "if", but "when" the US consumer recovers.