The U.S. economy may be slowing, but the spending habits of wealthy Americans has bouyed the performance of high-end consumer stocks.
Citigroup’s (NYSE:C) Living Large index of 15 high-end stocks slipped 1.70% in the third quarter of 2007, but appreciated 11.69% in the year-to-date, outpacing the broad market and the S&P 500 Consumer Discretionary sector.
Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup, said the top 20% of U.S. consumers in terms of income earners account for nearly 40% of all American consumer spending. He said this group spends more annually than the bottom three-fifths of income earners combined.
Furthermore, this group is less affected than lower income earners by the decline in house prices.
“Despite deep concerns about the housing sector, overall net worth amongst wealthier Americans is concentrated away from their homes as their portfolios tend to be more diversified, with equity market gains thus far in 2007 sustaining their ability to spend,” Mr. Levkovich said.
He said the ability for companies in this sector to maintain strength provided valuable growth opportunity in uncertain economic conditions. “Accordingly, we think that further upside potential is likely,” he said.
The Living Large index comprises American Express Company (NYSE:AXP), Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF), Saks Incorporated (NYSE:SKS), Estee Lauder Companies Inc. (NYSE:EL), Coach, Inc. (NYSE:COH), Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE:RCL), Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ:WYNN), Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. (NYSE:OEH), Callaway Golf Company (NYSE:ELY), Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE:TOL), Marinemax Inc. (NYSE:HZO), Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE:JWN), Steiner Leisure Ltd. (NASDAQ:STNR), Tempur-Pedic International, Inc. (NYSE:TPX), and Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group Inc. (SWRG).