Archive for the ‘economic analysis’ Category
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT), the biggest retailer in the U.S., just reported its second-quarter same-store sales declined 1.4%. As a reader of Profit Confidential, this should come as no surprise to you.
Consumer spending in the U.S. economy is bleak; it doesn’t seem to be improving, and it’s nowhere near what the stock market is depicting. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), so if consumer spending continues to decline, our economic growth becomes questionable.
Personal consumption expenditure, a measure of consumer spending, has been experiencing a decline. From between 2010 and 2011, consumer spending increased by little more than five percent. Meanwhile, the rate of change between 2011 and 2012 was only 3.64%. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis web site, last accessed May 16, 2013.)
What Wal-Mart’s contracting same-store sales and slowing consumer expenditure rates show is that consumer spending in the U.S. is not growing. From the statistics, we can see the average American consumer is suffering.
As of February (the latest available figures), there were more than 47.5 million Americans, which is 15% of the population or 23 million households, on food stamps. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 10, 2013.) Food stamp usage has increased immensely. So, how can consumer spending increase when we are sitting at record poverty levels in the U.S.?
This “job growth” the government talks about—the official rate—doesn’t include people who have given up looking for work and people who have part-time jobs but want full-time jobs. And even if we put that aside, the majority of jobs that have been created over the … Read More
Core retail sales declined 0.1% in April—and that’s after they already fell 0.4% in the previous month! (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, May 13, 2013.)
When compared to the first four months of 2012, consumer spending in the U.S. economy declined in the first four months of 2013 at electronics and appliance stores, health and personal care stores, gasoline stations, and general merchandise stores.
And looking forward, consumer spending in the U.S. economy doesn’t appear to look very promising either.
If companies don’t spend or create better-quality/better-paying jobs, can consumer spending really pick up? It’s well documented in these pages: the job creation we have seen since the financial crisis started has been in low-wage-paying sectors.
Keeping all this in mind, with consumer spending still bleak and core retail sales constantly declining, the retailer must be suffering.
But that’s not so!
When you look at the stock market and, more specifically, at the retailers, it appears that consumer spending in the U.S. economy is booming! Consider the chart below of the S&P Retail Index. This index tracks the performance of some of the most well-known retailers in the U.S. economy.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
Dear reader, the stock market isn’t portraying the real picture of the U.S. economy. The retail sales number actually shows how consumer spending—the biggest contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP)—is fairing, and those numbers look terrible.
Even with the printing of trillions of dollars of new money via quantitative easing, the Federal … Read More
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 3.8 million jobs opening in the U.S. jobs market in the month of March, unchanged from February and lower than March 2012 (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 7, 2013.) The hires rate, which is the number of people hired relative to those already working, declined in March in the durable goods manufacturing, nondurable goods manufacturing, arts, entertainment, and recreation sectors.
There are still almost 12 million individuals in the U.S. economy who are jobless, and a significant portion of them have been unemployed for more than six months.
So far this year, 783,000 jobs have been added to the U.S. jobs market. While this number sounds good, in the same period last year, there were almost 900,000 jobs added to the jobs market. In 2011, it was 774,000 jobs. (Source: Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2013.)
In addition to all this, there are threats to the jobs market ahead, such as sequestration—$85.0 billion in spending cut from the U.S. federal government. These cuts are expected to hit the jobs market in the summer. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the cuts in government spending will result in a reduction of 750,000 jobs. (Source: CNBC, May 1, 2013.)
I am looking at the recent declining number of jobless claims as a positive sign, but the jobs market is still in a dismal state. Until the jobs market really picks up, my negative opinion on the U.S. economy won’t change.
Consumer spending in the U.S. economy looks to be in trouble.
A popular measure of U.S. consumer confidence, the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index fell 2.4% in May. It registered at 45.1, compared to 46.2 in April. What’s problematic is that this consumer confidence measure is only 0.7 points above the reading in December 2007, when the U.S. economy entered into a recession. (Source: Tipponline, last accessed May 7, 2013.) A reading below 50 indicates consumers have a pessimistic view of the U.S. economy.
This U.S. consumer confidence measure essentially has three different components. It asks consumers three questions: 1) how will the U.S. economy perform in the next six months; 2) what is the status of their personal financial outlook; and 3) how confident are they in federal economic policies? Of the three components, two witnessed a decline. Consumer confidence toward the U.S. economy had the biggest drop in May, down 8.5%.
As we all know, consumer confidence is essential to consumer spending, as consumers tend to hold back on their purchases if they believe economic conditions will become worse.
Another major obstacle in front of consumer spending, consumer credit in the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of only 5.7% in the first quarter of 2013. If this rate remains the same, then 2013 will post an increase in consumer credit, which was lower than the credit expansion rate of 2012. (Source: Federal Reserve, May 7, 2013.) When consumers borrow less, they spend less.
Adding to the misery of consumer confidence, jobs growth in the U.S. economy isn’t anywhere close to what it really should be. Last month, … Read More
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