The strongest and toughest creature out there, and maybe the smartest one, that no one has been able to subdue yet, the inexplicable American consumer has hit a wall. It showed up in a prosaic but ugly 8-K filing by Visa—a staggering and sudden shift that pundits tried to explain away somehow by referring to recent changes in debit card regulations. I mean, come on.
Consumer optimism has been rising from the morose multi-year low in August and has reached levels not seen since, well, May. It whipped hope into a froth. Rising confidence would pump up consumer spending, which would pump up everything else. But the inexplicable American consumer, the toughest creature out there that no one has been able to subdue yet, had other plans.
According to last week’s GDP number, the economy has been growing supposedly at a rate of 2.5% in the third quarter—thanks largely to the inexplicable American consumer, the toughest creature out there. But there are some pernicious trends and unpleasant zigzags that point the opposite way.
Consumer confidence indices have collapsed to levels not seen in years or even decades. Yet the toughest creature out there that no one has yet been able to beat down struck again. Consumer spending increased at an annual rate of 2.4% during the third quarter, though the mood has become outright morose since.
Consumer confidence fell off a cliff and hit levels not seen since April 2009, and yet, consumers spent with abandon and made up the difference by piling on debt, at least for now. What gives?