Where Is The U.S. Consumer? - Part 2

by: John M. Mason

Two pieces of news today that go along with my earlier post about the pressures families are facing in the United States.

First, “Home Prices Tumble.” For November, the Case-Shiller index of 10 major metropolitan areas and the 20-city index both fell 1.3% from the previous month. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices, also noted that 19 of the 20 major U.S. metropolitan markets covered by the indices in November saw prices decline from October.

The 10-city and 20-city composites posted annual returns of negative 3.6% and negative 3.7%, respectively, compared with November 2010.”

Second, “Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Declines.” U.S. consumer confidence in January gave back some of the huge gains posted in the previous two months, according to a report released Tuesday. Views on labor markets darkened.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer confidence retreated to 61.1 this month from a revised 64.8 in December, first reported as 64.5. The January index was far less than the 68.0 expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

Perceptions about the job markets worsened this month. The survey showed 43.5% think jobs are “hard to get” up from 41.6% saying that in December, while only 6.1% think jobs are “plentiful” down from 6.6% in December.”

These data are consistent with the material presented in the earlier post. The United State consumer has lots to worry about and, for a large portion of this consumer base, spending is not expected to be very robust in future months. And, their situation cannot be turned around soon by either monetary or fiscal policies.