What's up, party people? So apparently today's trading session shaped up to be better than the day before - and it makes perfect sense! Today's data releases, in particular consumer confidence, are VERY positive for the economy and it's awesome if the trend will hold true. Check out my two contributions on Seeking Alpha and learn (below) why each report is so important to know and understand. (Explanations from Bloomberg's Economic Calendar)
S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index - Home values affect much in the economy, especially the housing and consumer sectors. Periods of rising home values encourage new construction while periods of soft home prices can damp housing starts. Changes in home values play key roles in consumer spending and in consumer financial health. During the first half of this decade sharply rising home prices boosted how much home equity households held. In turn, this increased consumers' ability to spend, based on wealth effects and from being able to draw upon expanding home equity lines of credit. With the onset of the credit crunch in mid-2007, weakness in home prices had the reverse impact on the economy. New housing construction has been impaired and consumers have not been able to draw on home equity lines of credit as in prior years. But an additional problem for consumers is that a decline in home values reduces the ability of a home owner to refinance. During the recent recession, this became a major problem for subprime mortgage borrowers as adjustable rate mortgages reached the end of the low "teaser rate" phase and ratcheted upward. Many subprime borrowers had bet on higher home values to lead to refinancing into an affordable fixed rate mortgage but with home equity values down, some lenders balked at refinancing subprime borrowers. But even though the economy technically moved into recovery, unemployment has remained high and depressed home prices have affected an increasing number of households.
Consumer Confidence - The pattern in consumer attitudes can be a key influence on stock and bond markets. Consumer spending drives two-thirds of the economy and if the consumer is not confident, the consumer will not be willing to pull out the big bucks. Confidence impacts consumer spending which affects economic growth. For stocks, strong economic growth translates to healthy corporate profits and higher stock prices. For bonds, the focus is whether economic growth goes overboard and leads to inflation. Ideally, the economy walks that fine line between strong growth and excessive (inflationary) growth. This balance was achieved through much of the nineties. For this reason alone, investors in the stock and bond markets enjoyed huge gains during the bull market of the 1990s. Consumer confidence did shift down in tandem with the equity market between 2000 and 2002 and then recovered in 2003 and 2004. In 2008 and 2009, the credit crunch and past recession led confidence downward with consumer spending contracting in tandem. More recently during the economic recovery, consumer confidence has edged back up but has been outpaced by improvement in spending.Since consumer spending accounts for such a large portion of the economy, the markets are always eager to know what consumers are up to and how they might behave in the near future. The more confident consumers are about the economy and their own personal finances, the more likely they are to spend. It's easy to see how this index of consumer attitudes gives insight to the direction of the economy. Just note that changes in consumer confidence and retail sales don't move in tandem month by month.
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