Less to save, less to spend. That's the cold, hard truth of the average American family, based on the news flow this week. And if consumers aren't confident, you can be sure investors aren't feeling it. Or can you?
In a conference call yesterday by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
(CFP), chairman Robert Glovsky -- who also serves as president of Mintz Levin Financial Advisors
-- said, "Americans are settling in for a slow recovery." According to the CFP, the vast majority of Americans feel that the US economy will either improve or hold steady over the next six months, with just over one in four saying they think it will deteriorate in that period. They are not alarmed, to be sure, but they are not confident, either.
Today's retail numbers
also show that brakes are being pressed on the economy. Families are de-leveraging and this means saving less as well as spending less. A source at the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) told HousingWire
that converting homeowners to tenants under, for example, Fannie Mae
's Deed-for-Lease (D4L) program, is largely failing because these Americans typically can't meet the debt-to-income ratios and credit scores necessary to qualify.
This is a global trend, as trepidation in worldwide economies is growing more and more acute. After all, does anyone really believe that we can spend our way out of the recession? The government will pull back on public spending, to be sure, in order to pay the deficit, whilst at the same time raising taxes. So, it's harder to envision more jobs, more municipal growth, etc.
"Judging by the yield drop in the domestic bond market, many investors also fear the US, and possibly the world, may experience a double-dip recession," said Christopher Sheldon, director of investment strategy at Bank of New York Mellon
. "A reduction in government spending could yield more private sector spending and investment, which would be a welcome development."
Investors, like average Americans, are not assuming the worst. This may sound like bad news, but it's really just the practicality of today's market players. But can you blame them? Where is the proof that the markets are investor-friendly? Perhaps financial reform will ease some of this burden, but that's a discussion for another day.
There are many positives, albeit moreso globally, that show a trend towards strengthening the recovery. The European Parliament is expected to water down the new Basel 3 rules, leaving in place a less-onerous capital-raising regime. EU Member States are now passing resolutions committing to increasing the full-time employment rate to 75% by 2020 with 90% of 15-24 year-olds either in education, training or employment.
In the US, the negative ratings drift is expected to turn around this year as well. A strong earning season is also anticipated. Nonetheless, investors will remain housing light for the next quarter. "We believe that the combination of significant residential home price declines and very low mortgage rates should be enough to improve demand, perhaps in the fall, after the effects from the tax credit expiration diminish," Sheldon said.
In the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper space, years of bad news is also reversing. Credit Suisse
found last week that most of the investor interest remained in the overnight to 3-month maturity range and the yield pickup remained fairly substantial for investors that were willing to move further out on the curve.
For credit analyst Jean-David Cirotteau at Société Générale
, investment opportunity outlook falls into two categories. "The first is that generally speaking markets are cheap -- take for example equity markets, with private equity at low historical levels -- and offer a good buying opportunity," he said. "The second is that a double-dip recession is looming and due to the negative outlook this is not the right moment to invest."
In short, no one is willing to go out on a limb, especially with economists rarely in total agreement and saying "Invest now."
So it remains to be seen exactly how involved investors will get into the equity and housing markets. Until we know, the space will remain as lukewarm as the retail spending pool. But without continued government support, and with Americans unable to bail out the economy on their own, private-sector spending will not be coming to the rescue.
Jacob Gaffney is the Editor of HousingWire
. Write to him