Signs of a pulse?

No, I’m not talking about the S&P 500…don’t look for any short-term gains in the market until some good news triggers it. This could take awhile, and might take the form of a slower pace of layoffs and foreclosures, the banking industry getting its footing, and so on. Meanwhile, if you look hard enough, there are a few faint signs of a pulse at the level of consumer spending. Here goes:

1. At least at the local malls (here in Milwaukee), signs of the Apocalypse were hard to spot over the weekend…almost as hard as finding a parking space. Consumers were out, they were looking and (in some cases) they were even buying. No, this doesn’t mean the return of the consumer-driven economic boom, but it’s nice to see a few signs of confidence instead of fear.

2. At least one retailer reported (along with its 4th quarter earnings) that February sales were running slightly better than (very low) expectations. Again, the proof is in the pudding when retailers report their comp-store sales this Thursday, but the number may be better than the past few months — or, at least, less awful.

3. Again, reporting from Milwaukee, the annual Auto Show wrapped up this weekend with news reports that attendance was better than expected and even with last year. Doesn’t mean a thing until it translates into actual auto sales, but good news is better than bad news.

I’ll keep looking for hopeful signs where I see them, and feel free to comment on my posts if you observe the same.

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