Consumer Confidence at 125...are you kidding me?
The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence index for the month of March was reported on Tuesday to be 125.6! If I recall, this index bottomed out near 20 as the stock market was making what we now know as a generational low in 2009. I started to type that the March reading was the highest I've ever seen, before noticing that it printed a 128.6 at the end of 2000. In all fairness, I was a clueless college student in 2000 so even if it happened, I probably didn't actually see it.
The premise behind this index is that consumers are feeling emboldened by a positive view of business, labor market conditions, and the overall economy. On a side note, the survey responsible for this index was taken before the failure of the health care reform bill. Nevertheless, it is clear that consumers are feeling good and as a result, they are putting money to work in the stock market.
If you look at a long-term chart of the Consumer Confidence index, it almost identically coincides with the direction of the stock market. With this in mind, there could be some red flags waving. In the past, we've seen major tops and bottoms in the stock market at times in which the Consumer Confidence index is at extreme highs and lows, respectively. Particularly readings in excess of 100.
For instance, the last time the Consumer Confidence was this high in 2000, the S&P peaked dropping 50% over the next two years. Likewise, the Consumer Confidence was near 110 in 2007 just before the S&P fell 60% in the subsequent two years. Since the election, we've seen the Consumer Confidence index breach and hold above 100 for the first time since 2007 (and prior to that the early 2000s). Will this time be different?
*It is only fair to note that the Consumer Confidence hovered above 100 in the mid-2000s for quite some time before the stock market rolled over and during that time stocks rallied nicely (until they didn't).