Last Friday, consumers began shopping for the winter holiday season in usual fashion, on the day after Thanksgiving, to take advantage of discounts offered by the nation's major retail chain stores.
However, this year was a little different than the past four years, as the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that the number of persons who went shopping rose 4.8 percent compared to a year ago, while the average amount of money spent by shoppers fell 3.5 percent.
In light of the fact that retailers throughout the country are currently offering substantial discounts in an effort to lure financially-strapped consumers, both I and the NRF expect this year to be the worst winter holiday shopping season since the last economic recession ended in November 2001.
Those of you who've subscribed to my new investment service, The ETF Strategist, have fortunately been profiting from the slowdown in consumer spending. One of my ETF recommendations that sells short stocks of companies in the retail sector has already appreciated 17.5 percent over the past month.
I expect this ETF to advance another 15 percent between now and March of next year.
In addition to the deteriorating retail environment and associated price declines of stocks in the consumer discretionary sector, my investment models indicate that stocks and ETFs in numerous other economic sectors will also trend lower between now and June 2008.
Several economic statistics to be released later this week should shed more light on this subject. On Wednesday, figures for durable goods orders and sales of existing homes for the month of October will be issued, while the latest numbers for sales of new homes will be released on Thursday.
Statistics on consumer incomes and spending are scheduled for release on Friday, along with figures showing the most recent developments in the manufacturing sector.
I expect each of these key economic indicators to point to a continued slowdown in U.S. economic growth and for stock prices to fall in line with the probable declines in these indicators.
However, I expect all of the ETFs currently being recommended in The ETF Strategist to advance in price this week, including our short index funds, defensive plays in the utilities and telecommunications sectors, and our inflation-hedge recommendations.
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