America's Economic Engine Is Better Off Than Many Folks Think

Editor's note: The financial media loves doom-and-gloom headlines... But according to Marc Chaikin – founder of our corporate affiliate Chaikin Analytics – those stories are only part of the picture for American consumers. In this piece, originally published in the June 14 Chaikin PowerFeed e-letter, Marc covers two key measures that go beyond how folks are "feeling" about the U.S. economy... and explains why hunkering down on the sidelines is a mistake today.

The news is full of negative stories about U.S. consumers...

The mainstream media loves to talk about the bad stuff. It focuses on topics like surging debt levels, struggling low-wage workers, and poor financial decisions.

Now, a lot of people out there are dealing with serious problems in their lives. I don't mean to minimize that.

But the data tells a different story about the U.S. economy as a whole...

The economy isn't as bad as the media makes it seem. The truth is, the American consumer is thriving.

Today, we'll look at two key figures that help us "cut through the noise." And you'll find that America's economic engine is better off than the media would lead you to believe...

The U.S. consumer is America's economic engine. We're the folks who make the economy tick.

If most people are doing well, the economy booms. But if a lot of people are struggling, the economy grinds to a halt.

We can use two key statistics to figure out how the U.S. consumer is doing at any given time. The first is the credit-card delinquency rate. The other is the personal savings rate.

Let's start with credit-card delinquencies. The Federal Reserve tracks this data. Take a look at what has happened over the past three decades...

Now, this chart might surprise you...

After all, the mainstream media makes it seem like everyone is drowning in credit-card debt.

But the actual government data tells the full story...

Credit-card delinquencies are near record lows. In fact, the only time they've been significantly lower was in 2021, when Uncle Sam showered working-class Americans with cash.

This stat is important. It's a real-money measure. It doesn't focus on how people feel. Rather, it tells us what they're actually doing with their money.

When times are really tough, people default on credit cards. A missed credit-card payment could mean keeping the power on or buying another week's worth of groceries.

That's not the case today, though. Incredibly low delinquency rates show us that the average U.S. consumer isn't struggling with these tough decisions right now.

Now, if we think one step ahead, the next question is, "What about savings rates?" Perhaps many Americans are paying their credit-card bills but not saving any money.

Fortunately, the government tracks that data as well. Take a look...

This chart comes from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. It shows "personal savings as a percentage of disposable personal income." That's often shortened to the "personal savings rate."

Sure, the current personal savings rate looks low next to the crazy mountain of pandemic-era stimulus. But when we look closer, an important fact appears...

The current personal savings rate for U.S. consumers is in line with its historical average. People saved the same percentage of their income in 2006 that they're saving today.

Now, would I like it if U.S. consumers saved and invested more of their disposable income? Of course.

I started Chaikin Analytics with the express purpose of helping hardworking Americans – like my wife, Sandy – navigate their own investments. That includes retirement investing.

But when it comes to the broad economy, the data is clear. Sure, the news stories we hear about American consumers sound dire. But right now, things look pretty good by these two measures.

As long as the U.S. consumer keeps buying, American businesses (and their stocks) will continue to prosper. This is yet another point in support of a "bullish" market thesis...

Put simply, America's economic engine is still going strong today.

Good investing,

Marc Chaikin

Editor's note: Marc called the 2022 crash and the bank run earlier this year. Now, he's stepping forward with a new warning. You see, Marc has developed a system with a 94% success rate of predicting where Wall Street will move its money next... And right now, it shows we've reached a critical turning point. This moment could give you the chance to double your money or more in 2023 – so if you've been nervous to get back into stocks, don't miss what he has to say... Get the full story here.

Further Reading

"Consumers are swimming in cash," Joel Litman writes. That isn't the prevailing narrative today – but it's a big reason why the economy has held up so well. This piece clears up the confusion about the finances of everyday Americans... and explains more about what the fearful headlines are missing. Read more here.

Mega caps are leading the market higher. If you're worried that's a bad sign, you're not alone... But in this case, history shows those fears don't check out. Stocks tend to do just fine in times like these. And double-digit gains are likely... Learn more here.