by Steven Feldman
The next few months will be quite interesting. We’ll all be watching something. Some of us will be watching the Facebook stock price. Others will be glued to the polls. Some of us will be watching the summer Olympic Games from London rooting for the next Michael Phelps. I’ll be watching my cholesterol.
In my own humble opinion, here is what I think we all should be watching:
1. The global economy. Europe is the place to keep an eye on as it deals with the debt crisis. Greece and other countries are trying to work out deals that will hold things together, but the situation is still tenuous. Also, pay attention to the growth in China, and to a lesser extent, India and Russia. If China’s growth slows, it could have an impact globally. India has had strong growth, but it is not nearly the global player China is at this point.
2. Jobs. The national unemployment rate and the total number of new positions are reported on the first Friday of each month. Interestingly, the way the calendar works, there will be an unemployment report on Friday, Nov. 2, just before the general election the following Tuesday. That could be an economic number of historic proportions because of its potential impact on the election.
3. Ohio. You want to know who will win the general election in November? I’ll tell you. Just tell me who’s going to win Ohio. No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. And only one Democrat has done it—JFK by a whisker—in the past 50 years.
4. Current events in August, September and October. You want to know who will win the general election in November? Just tell me what the headlines will be in a few months. It’s why polls hardly matter. Back in 1968, Hubert Humphrey closed a big gap between himself and Richard Nixon. With days to go before Election Day, the United States and North Vietnam were very close to an agreement on peace negotiations. Then the South Vietnamese government balked. Had that deal been consummated by the Lyndon Johnson administration, there’s good reason to think Vice President Humphrey would have won the election.
5. Consumer confidence. Consumer confidence is widely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity. Generally speaking, people were more positive about the economy over the first three months of the year. Then it dipped to 64.9 in May from 68.7 in April, the first significant drop in eight months. The bad news is the number is significantly below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy. The good news is we are still well above the 40 figure reached last October. The flooring industry needs an uptick in consumer confidence. Now.
6. The housing market. Why hasn’t the economy come back at a faster pace? This last recession was the worst since the Depression. Housing and commercial construction usually kick in after a recession, trying to fulfill any pent-up demand caused by the recession. But this time, housing was a big part of the recession in the first place as the mortgage bubble collapsed, flooding the market with millions of homes at substantially lower values. Many people have much of their net worth tied up in their homes.
7. The Olympics. Just because there is nothing more patriotic than rooting for your fellow Americans as they compete for the gold after years of training. I’m just sayin’.