Cramer: There Is a Hidden Recovery in Consumer Spending

 | Mar 16, 2017 | 7:24 AM EDT
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Totally hidden from view. A recovery totally hidden from view. Think about it: we have lending growth plateauing. We have consumer spending pretty much invisible. We have Janet Yellen herself explaining that yes, indeed, we have to raise rates but, no, the economy isn't growing that well.

To me, it's all about employment and the couch. People are being hired all over the country and jobs are plentiful in lots of parts of the nation, even if they aren't jobs you might want to take.

But they aren't spending like they used to, and that's got so many money managers and business people concerned that they are baffled and know that they either shouldn't be positive or that they are too giddy if they buy stocks up here or raise forecasts.

But I think that's all because the change in consumer spending is happening way too fast for pretty much everyone.

Now, today's not the day to fret about consumer spend, because it's 15 degrees out and Canada Goose is coming public and it will be a monster deal. A monster deal for a company that sells $1000 coats with the insignias right in your face. A red hot outerwear company mocks the whole supply chain of retail woe.

Nevertheless, what I think so many continue to miss is that they conflate traditional consumer spending with job growth, and they think there is something very wrong if we have job growth and no traditional consumer spend.

Some say that's because of health care costs. Others say it is because of student loans. Then some say it is because of stunted household formation from the Great Recession. Still others say it is all about new frugality, because it's only been a few years since the wipe-out. And then we have the plain oil "Chinese and Mexicans took our jobs" thesis that elected a president.

To some degree, all of these are true. But I think that it is how money is spent and where it is spent that matters. For example, if you listen to the CEOs of the cruise companies or if you listen to the CEOs of theme parks, including Disney (DIS) , the numbers are ripping. Just fantastic. But if you listen to the managers of any stores in the mall save Children's Place (PLCE) and Foot Locker (FL) , they think it is the end of the world. They actually can't believe you when you say things are good.

If you look at the numbers for Action Alerts PLUS charity portfolio holding Apple (AAPL) and for Apple services, you know that a gigantic amount of money goes toward that device.

If you look at the numbers from Activision Blizzard (ATVI) and Take Two (TTWO) and Electronic Arts (EA) you think the same.

But if you sell apparel, unless it has the Canada Goose insignia? You are thinking, how can I con Burlington (BURL) and TJX (TJX) into taking all of my winter merchandise today?

It's a spending pattern that begins with the concept of the cellphone. It's your mall, it's your order in restaurant, it's your entertainment and it is entirely zero sum.

The only thing you need is a house that is as comfy as possible, because you don't leave it much, so you go to Home Depot (HD) and you watch Youtube videos to show you how to make things.

Is it all that simple?


It's just that it's not part of a rich portfolio manager's life, and anyone who is a CEO of a major company involved with consumer spending can't believe it because the whole thing, the whole change, took place in about 18 months.

Bezos saw it coming a half-dozen years ago.

Maybe 317 million other Americans didn't, including the CEOs of most companies involved with that greatest of all U.S. growth engines: consumer spending.

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