Consumers are still wading through the lingering effects of the financial crisis and lacking the confidence needed in the economy to move forward. And as long as consumer spending is lagging on the personal shopping front, homebuying is going to remain out of the question for many families.
This year’s Black Friday shopping failed to kick-start the shopping season with a boom. In fact, retail spending fell for the first time in at least seven years over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Consumers racked up $59.1 billion in purchases in 2012, compared to only $57.4 billion this year, as hyped-up deals and bargains failed to lure in shoppers, the National Retail Federation said.
The good news is that while consumers are not so confident right now, they are de-leveraging debts carried from the pre-crisis days — a potential breakthrough for the housing market.
"Our findings suggest that the consumer de-leveraging experienced since the financial crisis will trough in the next year or two, driven by improved mortgage credit availability and better consumer demand," Paul Miller, a managing director at FBR Capital Markets, said.
Miller’s report explained that consumer leverage boils down to three factors: ability, confidence and access.
"You need a better economy but you can’t get a better economy until the banks start lending again," Miller said. "Assuming that there is a loosening in the supply of credit and that demand remains steady, we believe that the current de-leveraging process is 70%–85% complete and will be largely done over the next one to two years."
After borrowers get access to lending, the problem lies in their access to credit. However, Miller explained that President Obama’s Federal Housing Finance Agency nominee Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., could do a lot to open the credit box and do more for banks.
But one thing that can’t be controlled is confidence in the economy and that will be the turning point, he added.
The lack of confidence is really holding everyone back right now. However, give it another year or two, and consumers will start to take on leverage again, Miller concluded.