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Investing Specialists

The Consumer Blinked First

The holiday season might have been a bit brighter than many had anticipated, says Morningstar's Bob Johnson.

The data flow this week was thankfully light. But even during the holiday season, less can be more.

Speaking of the holiday season, various unofficial reports seemed to indicate that it might have been a bit brighter than many had anticipated, according to one widely watched metric. Although not very scientific, a few photographs from my Morningstar colleagues showed nearly empty toy shelves at a couple of major retailers just two days before Christmas. Consumer confidence, as reported by the Conference Board, looked better, too, confirming the University of Michigan Survey from last week.

I've been carping on the fact that greater confidence among the 90% of the population with a job would jump-start consumer spending and, by extension, overall economic performance. I am not sure that either of the major confidence indexes truly captures that mood, but it is good to see them trending in the right direction for a couple of months in a row.