U.S. consumers haven't turned into corpses just yet.
Despite election season uncertainty and a cooling U.S. labor market, the market continues to quietly get upbeat data on the consumer.
First, there has been some pretty spectacular numbers out of the auto market even after a robust two-year sales pace (which makes comparisons tough and raises sell-the-news risk). Auto sales through June increased 1.5% to 8.65 million, surpassing last year's record of 8.5 million, according Autodata Corp. Hence I recently came out positive on CarMax (KMX) , whose used-car focus is a better way to play present macro dynamics than a mostly new-car seller such as AutoNation (AN) .
U.S. homebuilders continue to experience widespread labor shortages among many construction crafts and report reduced availability of specialty subcontractors, according to results of a new survey from the National Association of Home Builders. That only happens if consumers -- feeling pretty confident in their current and expected financial situations -- are looking to take advantage of low interest rates and commit to owning a home.
Expect another quarter of strong results from Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW) , as well as hearty strength in Best Buy's (BBY) appliance category (though Best Buy is not the way to play the consumer because so many parts of its stores are lagging and the new Apple iPhone is unlikely to impress).
Meanwhile, May's consumer credit report showed revolving credit outstanding, notably credit cards, rose at a 2.97% annual pace. That brought revolving credit outstanding to its highest level since mid-2009 -- April showed a solid 1.7% increase.
Anecdotally, I have seen the strength in credit card spending unfold over the past four weeks in the malls. Racks at Macy's (M) and J.C. Penney (JCP) are very picked over, aggressively marked down inventory at bankrupt Sports Authority is going quickly, and the weekend crowds at food courts have been a surprising find for yours truly.
Growth Seeker holding Under Armour's (UA) new ridiculed Stephen Curry sneakers priced at $129.99 have sold briskly according to sources, while the $200 Nike (NKE) sneakers LeBron James wore in the playoffs have sold out. No this isn't 2007 folks, but the activity has been welcome news after a brutal first quarter from retailers as they battled negative election headlines and cautious consumers.
As a result of all these "little" signs on the U.S. consumer, the VanEck Vectors Retail ETF (RTH) has made a nice move since mid-June.