Never Underestimate the American Consumer

It was two weeks ago that I likened the ongoing Greek debt saga to a slasher flick bad guy that keeps rising from apparent death. The Greek story is truly one that will not die.  

It should be clear by now that none of the parties involved are playing it straight. Greece has made several misleading statements about the size of its debt and its plans to pay it off. Germany has reneged on its promise of support several times.   


Even the aid talks with the IMF seem to be taking far too long. In fact, this Greek aid process is taking so long that investors are starting to speculate that Portugal will not be able to get aid quickly if it needs it.   


At first, I called the endless wrangling over aid to Greece dysfunctional. Now, I’m starting to wonder if it’s deliberate. When you consider the discrepancy in economic strength between members of the EU, would it be any surprise that a country like Germany might be second-guessing its decision to join the EU?   


And further, now that Greece has misled the EU from the start, and is staggering under the weight of its debt, Germany can let Greece be the fall guy for breaking up the EU by simply stonewalling the aid package.   


You may recall I have repeated the phrase “never underestimate the American consumer.” Consumer spending almost always exceeds expectations as the U.S. economy emerges from recession.   


This time appears to be no different.  


Retail stocks have been performing extremely well over the last six months as consumer spending and retail sales numbers have exceeded expectations.   


And economists expect that consumer spending in the 1st Quarter may have risen by as much as 4%, which greatly exceeds earlier estimates.   


What’s more, individual investors seem to be discounting the potential for spending to rebound while unemployment is high. Consumer sentiment surveys continue to point to weakness in spending.  


In my opinion, it’s always best to follow what consumers do, rather than what they say. Just because consumer sentiment is low does not mean the consumer is not spending.   


But it does mean that retail stocks may have upside, as investors remain skeptical that valuations are realistic.   


TradeMaster Jason Cimpl has called a secondary bottom for natural gas prices. The first low he spotted was back in September, when natural gas prices dropped to the $3.70 area.   


Now, he says we are seeing a second opportunity to add natural gas stocks as the price recently hit the $4 level.   


Jason just recommended two small natural gas producers to his readers that have some solid upside coming as natural gas prices rebound. One, a $3 stock is already up 10% in just a few days.   


This stock was worth $15 a share before the financial crisis, so there’s plenty of upside ahead. And judging by the 106% gain Jason recently brought his readers on another small oil and gas producer, Jason’s got a good eye for these stocks.   


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