Americans Are Still Spending Like There’s No Tomorrow - Kanebridge News
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Americans Are Still Spending Like There’s No Tomorrow

Concerts, trips and designer handbags are taking priority over saving for a home or rainy day

By RACHEL WOLFE
Tue, Oct 3, 2023 9:00amGrey Clock 4 min

Consumers should be spending less by now.

Interest rates are up. Inflation remains high. Pandemic savings have shrunk. And the labor market is cooling.

Yet household spending, the primary driver of the nation’s economic growth, remains robust. Americans spent 5.8% more in August than a year earlier, well outstripping less than 4% inflation. And the experience economy boomed this summer, with Delta Air Lines reporting record revenue in the second quarter and Ticketmaster selling over 295 million event tickets in the first six months of 2023, up nearly 18% year-over-year.

Economists and financial advisers say consumers putting short-term needs and goals above long-term ones is normal. Still, this moment is different, they say.

A tough housing market has more consumers writing off something they’d historically save for, while the pandemic showed the instability of any long-term plans related to health, work or day-to-day life. So, they are spending on once-in-a-lifetime experiences because they worry they may not be able to do them later.

“It’s not a regret-filled, spur-of-the-moment decision,” says Michael Liersch, who oversees a team of advisers as head of advice at Wells Fargo. “It’s the opposite of that, where I would regret not having done it.”

Liersch cautions that it’s too soon to say whether the spate of spending is a fleeting moment or a new normal. And consumers remain frustrated about inflation as the price of many goods remains significantly higher than a few years ago.

Ibby Hussain, who works in marketing for a financial communications firm, says the Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment he and his fiancée rent for $3,000 a month would cost a million dollars to buy. At current rates, that means around $5,000 a month after a $200,000 down payment, not including property taxes. “And it’s not even that nice of an apartment.”

So, instead of saving for a down payment like he expected to after turning 30 and getting engaged in the past year, he splurged.

First, he bought a $1,600 Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticket and then he spent $3,500 on a bachelor party trip to Ibiza, Spain.

“I might as well just enjoy what I have now,” he says.

A travel boom

Ally Bank, whose online platform started allowing customers to create savings buckets for different goals in 2020, says users create about one-and-a-half times more experience-oriented buckets such as travel and “fun funds” versus those associated with longer-term planning.

Lindsey and Darrell Bradshaw went into credit-card debt to finance a vacation to Maui this past spring. The couple booked the trip only a few weeks after Lindsey, 37, quit her job to be a full-time caregiver to their 8-year-old son, who has special needs.

“We did not have the money and we were like, ‘Let’s just do this anyway,’ ” says Darrell Bradshaw, a 39-year-old general contractor in Seattle.

The trip cost about $10,000, including three, $1,000 last-minute plane tickets, 10 nights at a $385-a-night 4-star resort and several elaborate meals.

Even though the family decided to cancel subscriptions and cut back on dining out to help offset the bill, they say they have no regrets—especially since they got to see Lahaina just a few months before it was decimated by deadly wildfires.

Fears about a changing climate are driving some people to try to see places before they’re gone. In a monthly Deloitte survey of 19,000 global consumers, climate change was the only topic among 19 different concerns that respondents reported feeling significantly more worried about over the past year.

Josh Richner says he greatly lowered his retirement contribution to afford a cross-country trip that included a $7,000 Alaskan cruise so his family could see the ice caps, which have been melting at a rapid clip.

“I’ve never spent that much on a trip before,” says the 35-year-old, who says the splurge was also motivated by the pandemic and a health scare.

About six months ago, Richner and his wife decided to sell their Columbus, Ohio, home to travel the country with their two young children. Working for National Legal Center, a law firm that helps consumers resolve debt, he knows the potential consequences of living in a way that gives priority to the present. But he isn’t worried.

“I just hit a point where the thing that we had been talking about maybe hopefully doing some day, we’re going to do it now,” he says. “I’m not going to worry about money anymore. I don’t have it in me.”

Splurge purchases

Consumers might not be able to keep splurging forever. Labour strikes and student loan repayments could both lead people to pull back. Rising gas prices could also deter travel.

For those who study spending, however, the robustness up to this point has been a surprise.

In the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s August SCE Household Spending Survey, households reported spending 5.5% more than last year. The share of households that said they made at least one large purchase in the previous four months increased to 64% from 57%, its highest reading since August 2015.

“Normally at a time when you have higher inflation, but also higher interest rates, you don’t expect spending to hold up so well,” says Wilbert van der Klaauw, an economic research adviser on household and public policy at the Fed.

Rather than funnel all their spare change into a house or retirement account, Candice and Jasmine Kelly started a bucket-list fund after attending back-to-back funerals a few months ago. The couple adds a few hundred dollars from their paychecks each month into the fund, which they have used to try fancy restaurant tasting menus and buy Jasmine her dream designer handbag.

Instead of waiting to have fun when they retire, Candice, a 26-year-old management analyst in Charlotte, N.C., says the couple is trying to do the opposite. They want to enjoy their money while they’re young—even if it means working longer.

“All the rules that exist around money and lifestyle are just things people made up, so we’re playing a different game, and honestly I think we’re having more fun,” says Candice.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .