Case-Shiller, Consumer Spending and Confidence: What To Make Of Too Much Data

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This morning started out for me like every last Tuesday of the month… I read Case-Shiller.  Published on the last Tuesday of the month, S & P’s Case-Shiller report provides a thorough albeit backwards look into the status of the housing market.  What this month’s numbers show is that June posted gains again; that the Sun Belt remains a disaster, but that the rest of the nation and in particular California, has experienced some stability.  Only Denver, Boston and Washington DC posted smaller year over year declines than Los Angeles.  In fact the report went on to say, “Looking across the cities, eight bottomed in 2009 and have remained above their lows. These include all the California cities plus Dallas, Denver and Washington DC, all relatively strong markets.”  All the California cities; you’ve just got to love the Golden State.

Unlike most last Tuesday’s where Case-Shiller is the primary set of data to consider, there was more today; a lot more.  Consumer spending jumped in July on car sales to the highest level since December 2009.  Inflation was up but not more than anticipated, and as I like to say, “A little inflation is good for real estate.”  After all, when prices are rising on everything, housing is not the exception.  So housing is up, and the consumer is spending… Jane Goodall watch out! I’m actually about ready to pound on my chest like a silverback gorilla: maybe things really are getting better!

But then again I haven’t really been feeling that way.  In fact in what will likely portend a shift in all numbers to the negative going forward, consumer confidence sank in the wake of Congress’s ineptitude in dealing with each other over the debt ceiling, to the lowest level since April 2009.  If you recall, spring 2009 saw the DOW Jones Industrial Average collapse to the mid-6000’s.  It was a time of panic in Wall Street and fear paralyzed the nation.  Of all the data that came out today, Consumer Confidence is closest to real-time, and unfortunately it fell 25% in August.  To quote Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), in the movie Home Alone, “Not Good, not good at all.”

So what is the take away from all this data you ask?  I’m telling every client I have: hope for the best, but brace for the worst.  And in a world when there is just too much data to absorb; coming at us so fast and furiously, perhaps the best thing is to just ignore it and take a cue from the 1970’s and just “Keep on Keepin’ on”.