Good News: Consumer Confidence Falls to 26-Year Low

Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Paul Price

As Saturday's Wall Street Journal reported:

U.S. consumer confidence in April fell to its lowest level since March 1982, according to a report Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer-sentiment survey declined to 62.6 in April from 69.5 in March. Nine out of 10 respondents said they believed the economy is now in recession, and many said they expect to use government rebate checks to pay down debt or increase savings. That could keep consumer spending, a main engine of economic growth, sluggish.

What is noteworthy here is that consumer sentiment is a lagging indicator. It shows what has already happened and its effect on the general population's reaction to the past.

The only two times in the last 26 years when this index got near present levels were in early 1982 and late in 1990. Both those periods were times when smart investors bucked the bearish and ubiquitous negative sentiment and bought stocks with abandon.

August 1982 was the final time the DJIA was under 800 [it bottomed at about 765 that month] and 1991 turned out to be a stellar time to own stocks, especially value oriented names.

Consumer confidence, just like the VIX index, [inversely] measures investor discomfort and aversion to risk. In a supply and demand marketplace- when most people want to sell or stay on the sidelines is when you can get the best buys.

Both 1982 and 1990 turned out to be spectacular times to get aggressive. I'm betting that early 2008 will turn out to have been just like that when we look back on this year's miserable first quarter years from now.

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