Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Upside of Declining Consumer Confidence

The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence dropped in August, giving up nearly all of its July gains.

As the Conference Board reported it ...

"A softening in business conditions and labor market conditions has curbed consumers' confidence this month. In addition, the volatility in financial markets and continued sub-prime housing woes may have played a role in dampening consumers' spirits. But, despite less favorable conditions and in spite of all the recent turmoil, consumers still remain confident. And, current Index levels suggest further economic growth in the months ahead."

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It was reported that this was a prime cause of weakness in the stock market today. Despite notions to the contrary, declining consumer confidence is a good, healthy response to the indebtedness of both the consumer, and the federal government.

Acting otherwise would be a denial of reality. For those soundly in the bullish camp, let's review some facts:
  1. Household debt at unprecedented levels;
  2. A negative household savings rate, something never seen in the midst of an economic expansion;
  3. Federal government debt at the highest levels in recent memory, and still growing;
  4. The continuing trade deficit;
  5. The prospect of a continuing decline in the currency, meaning the Fed has to continue to walk the tightrope between importing inflation on the one hand, and managing the orderly decline of the currency on the other. All the while trying to massage the debacle in the credit markets. An undertaking fraught with short and/or long term risk. Take your pick.

Yes, there's times to be confident, like when things are humming along really well. This isn't one of those times. Then there's the confidence that comes from having been in a place of despair, but when the trends are moving in the right direction. This isn't one of those times either.

Now is a time to make sure you get your own financial house in order.

Start with the basics - your household budget. Review it for unnecessary expenditures. Trim your debt levels, with the most expensive interest rates first. Save some money! Use a high yield account, or find some solid blue-chip stock prospects, or broad-based ETFs. Save (anyone remember the word?) ... save ... save ...

In short, the upside of declining consumer confidence is the ability to not to be a monkey brain - to recognize the potential for trouble (like now), and put some preventative personal actions in place. While the trouble may or may not materialize, planning and acting like this will serve you well in any case. Now isn't the time to be an overconfident consumer - its' the time to be a confident saver!

Don't be blind to reality - open your eyes, look around, think, plan, and act. Are you a monkey?


The Confused Capitalist

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