Saturday, 5 February 2005

US consumer sentiment and payrolls slip in January

Are these signs that the US consumer may be about to rein in his spending?

Consumer Sentiment Ends Weaker in Jan.
U.S. consumer sentiment finished weaker in January, as respondents to a poll published on Friday grew less certain about their financial outlook. The University of Michigan's final reading of its consumer confidence index for January was 95.5, down from December's final reading of 97.1, according to market sources who saw the subscription-only report... The survey's future expectation index finished at 85.7, down from December's final of 90.9...

U.S. nonfarm payrolls added 146,000 jobs in January, less than December's downwardly revised gain of 133,000. However, the unemployment rate slipped to 5.2 percent from 5.4 percent in December, the government said earlier Friday.

[T]he survey's index of current conditions ended at 110.9, up from December's final of 106.7.

To add to this, Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture quotes Michael Panzer, author of The New Laws of the Stock Market Jungle, as saying that "the recent drop-off in the spending-income ratio to levels last seen nearly four years ago, amid an overall slowdown in refinancing activity (which is at least partly attributable to Federal Reserve tightening and higher short-term interest rates), suggests that overstretched homeowners' cupboards may be getting bare. Is this a sign of trouble to come for consumer spending -- and the economy at large?"

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