Rise in Consumer Confidence – a Good Sign?

Global Economy, Consumer Confidence, And Canadians

First Published: Published Date : June 11, 2009 ADawnJournal.com

The state of the global economy in recent times has been the number one story in newspapers and on TV news bulletins for quite some time now, and the negativity and pessimism of reports and predictions has inevitably translated to the consumers out there. In addition, the number of companies laying staff of has led to a further decrease in optimism about the economy. People are concerned about whether they will have a job next month, so concerns over having a plasma screen TV will be unlikely to feature at the top of their priorities. Since the governments of the world admitted one by one that there was a recession in the pipeline, it has been a case of bad news piling on top of bad news.

Amid all of the concerns, the mantra that has been repeated time and again is that the only way for the credit crisis to end is for customers to get out there and start shopping again in order to stimulate the economy. This has as often as not met with a hostile, cynical reaction as described in the first paragraph – if you aren’t sure about whether you will have a job next month, consumer spending becomes less of a priority for you, whatever the banks and politicians might say. The return of consumer confidence needs to be an organic thing – we as consumers need, ourselves, to feel that there is a reason to get out there and start spending. Signs are showing, now, that this might finally be the case.

Consumers surveyed in the last month have for the first time been broadly positive about the state of the economy going forward. A Harris-Decima poll conducted towards the end of May has put the level of consumer confidence among Canadians up at its highest level since February 2008 – before the credit crunch really took hold in a substantial way in terms of consumer understanding. The consumer confidence index, considered the most reliable way of monitoring confidence in the general public, is now sitting at 78.5 – up by 11.5 from the last reading in February 2009. Although this is different from saying that the consumers surveyed are all going to go out and buy expensive items, stimulating the economy massively as a result, it does indicate that people feel ready to spend, having been convinced that the wave of layoffs will not take their job and that they can look to the future with a modicum of confidence.

Among the other headlines of the survey is the fact that on being asked if they expected the economic situation to worsen in the coming twelve months, only 29% said they did, compared with nearly 60% in February. This considerable change in mindset may well be a foreshadowing of the consumer activity which will begin to ease the nation and indeed the world out of the tricky period that currently exists. There are no guarantees as to how things will be going forward, but with other indicators beginning to hint at a stabilization if not a recovery, there is at least some hope for the global economy to get back on track within the next 12 to 18 months.


Economic Crisis And Recession-Proof Jobs

First Published: ADawnJournal.com March 29, 2009

In the financial climate that prevails at the moment, there are numerous people who very understandably feel that there is no way they will ever get a job. Companies are laying off workers or asking them to take fewer hours in order to allow them to keep operating, and as a result the number of companies actually taking on new staff is falling sharply. This is the human effect of the recession being shown as clear as day. Newly graduated college students are finding themselves with large scale student debt and without a job that allows them to start paying it off. People who have been in the same job for twenty years and more are all of a sudden finding themselves unemployed and with scarce opportunity to retrain and find a new job.

Despite this, there are some companies and individuals who continue to thrive even in the heart of the recession. Some jobs are seemingly fire-proof, and some companies are experiencing little, if any, fall in profits or marketability. These jobs and these companies are the ones who are recession-proof. As fanciful as that term may appear, the simple truth is that there are services that a huge number of people will continue to need, and these services are not going to suddenly hit the skids in the same way that consumer outlets have been. When people have to tighten their belts financially, the first things to go are the things that they want but do not need. The things that we need will continue to do well because, whether we like it or not, we have to pay out for them.

For example, health care professionals are not suffering unduly in the recession because – credit crunch or no credit crunch – people are still getting sick, getting injured and needing treatment. Although there may be a drop in terms of people with comprehensive medical insurance as workers get laid off, there is no question that people are still going to their doctors in cases of necessity. Just as they will go to the doctor to get themselves fixed, they will also see another recession-proof worker – the car mechanic – when their car breaks down to get that fixed. Living without a motor vehicle, for many people, is simply not something that they can countenance.

The key, then, to making yourself recession proof is not easy, but it is clear. Make yourself indispensable. If you can get yourself into a market sector on which people rely and on which they will spend money, then you will give yourself a big advantage in the credit crunch era. If you are looking to go into business, then yes, now is a risky time for that but if you can get a business plan going for something that is essential it will pay off. Think about what people turn to in times of financial difficulty, and try to make your mark in those areas. It is essential to protect yourself, because the recession may continue for some time.

Positive Signs In Canadian Economy – But A Long Way Still To Go

Financial Crisis and Canadian Economy

First Published: ADawnJournal.com April 1, 2009

As people hang on for news that the financial world is lifting itself from its sickbed and preparing to walk again, any little bit of good news is likely to be taken as an encouraging sign that the end may be in sight. There are timely warnings, then, attached to the news that Toronto and Ontario have both reported rises in the rate of inflation for February. As both cities saw a rise of 0.1% from January’s rates, and Canada in general leaped by 0.3%, and the stock market rose for an eighth consecutive day, there may well be some desire to crack open a bottle of moderately-priced champagne – but this should be initially resisted, say experts. The inflation rate is predicted to fall in the coming months as more factors come into play.

The markets and the prices will continue to be watched in the months to come, as the world watches America for signs that things are improving there. Like the British government a few weeks ago, the US administration has taken its first steps toward quantitative easing by announcing a plan to buy up US$300bn in treasury bills. The danger inherent in this is that it can cause inflation to rise too quickly, and the Canadian government is expected to hold off on any quantitative easing at least for the present, preferring to keep a close eye on the economy and put in place prudent measures such as purchasing commercial paper in a bit to stimulate business lending.

While any signs of stirring in the economy are certainly to be welcomed, the fact of the matter is that nothing can presently be said to be happening that is a definitive “beginning of the end” of the financial turmoil, even in a Canada that has been applauded for its sound handling of the crisis. As a newly-installed President is finding out south of the border, people are tending to be skeptical of any financial stimulus plans, preferring to wait until the evidence of their own eyes gives them permission to get excited. The overall message is still that this is not a crisis which will recede overnight, and that we may well be looking at something that takes years to finally be over.

For the present, it seems that all that the consumer can to is continue to spend wisely, save assiduously and wait things out. The thing that is sticking in everyone’s mind, no matter which nation they live in, is that nobody can really say they have a definitive way to cure the crisis. If they did, it would already be in place. Patience is going to be the key, in Canada as much as everywhere else, and this is one case where no-one can predict with absolute certainty what will happen tomorrow, next week or next month. Amid all that, who’d be a President?

New Body Launched to Help Canadians in Financial Crisis

The Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services Begins Its Journey

First Published: ADawnJournal.com April 5, 2009

The credit crisis has bitten deep in many countries the world over. Perhaps as a result of the many alerts that have been sounded worldwide in the last few years, it had seemed like people were taking a rather skeptical view of this crisis. When you take into account that the Y2K bug never really stung – or at least planes did not fall from the sky and in fact the world kept operating much as it had before – and that although bird flu claimed more lives than one would have hoped, it never really reared up into the crisis it may have been, it is easy to see why there were people who brushed off the idea of the credit crunch. But it is here, and it is very real.

More and more Canadians are now having to admit that they are being sucked into the trouble that the crisis has caused. People are losing their jobs and their homes, and as a consequence there is a very real human cost to all of this. Although Canada was one of the last countries to submit to the global credit crisis, it has certainly succumbed to some extent, and the people being affected range from the high earners to the low-paid. Although the sound financial policies practised more widely in Canada than almost anywhere else mean that we will be one of the first countries to recover, that may be a while off yet. In the meantime it is essential that there are people out there to provide help for those who are at the mercy of the credit crunch, and that is why people should be relieved at the founding of the Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services (CACCS).

Credit counselling is a vitally important step in putting people on the right footing to deal with this crisis. The existence of paid-for debt counselling is something that is really not helping the current situation, and if you have been considering putting your debt matters in the hands of a company who promise to get your finances sorted out “for a small monthly fee”, please reconsider. If anyone says that you paying them to fix things will help you out of debt, then they are lying to you. There are services who will do the same thing free of charge, and they are generally far better qualified than the fly-by-night profit-based debt management companies.

CACCS are dedicated to providing an umbrella under which the not-for-profit credit counselling services can operate, and raising awareness of the services they provide. If you think about it, the profit-making companies who purport to offer the same service are going to have less incentive to get you out of debt – because the longer you are paying them to “sort things out”, the better for their profit margin. If you are working with one of those organizations, take the first steps towards kicking them into the long grass today and contact CACCS at their website (www.caccs.ca)

Is Now The Right Time To Buy?

The credit Crisis And You

First Published ADawnJournal.com : May 10, 2009

The fact that the financial markets are currently in a total mess has led many people to question whether getting on the real estate ladder is quite safe. As the news reports continue to resemble some kind of reality TV show by the title of “When Mortgages Go Toxic”, it is only to be expected that people should be reserved in terms of going after that new house – if things go wrong they could end up in poorer financial shape than they ever had imagined. But as with everything, there are two sides to the situation. You need to take into account things other than the turmoil that the market is in, and get an idea of exactly where you stand – because the truth of the matter is that no two situations are exactly the same.

The people who will really lose out in the current market are those who have a poor credit score along with those with a dubious score. As little as one missed or incomplete payment, or any reduced payment agreements with creditors and you could be judged as a credit risk in the current market. If, in addition, you need to sell to buy, then you are looking at getting less for your current house, and the shortfall may be too much to make up. It is not the time to upgrade your living arrangements, nor get into property developing for profit if you are in any of the above situations. Aside from people in these cases, however, there is still some scope. After all, the banks cannot stop lending completely – it is still an important income for them.

The credit crisis has meant that banks need to be more careful about who they lend to. Seeing it from their point of view, it is entirely reasonable that they could look at an individual’s credit file, see black marks against their name and be more than a little bit reticent about lending large sums of money. They need to protect their investments, and it was irresponsible lending on the part of major banks that precipitated the crisis in the first place.

If, however, you have an excellent credit history – the longer the better as it is long-term control of lending and repayment that they are looking for – you still stand a good chance of getting a loan, and the market is depressed at the moment, meaning that the speculator with access to funds is in a very advantageous position.

If you have recently taken out a loan, it may be wise to wait a little while to take out another. If you have the ability to pay off all or most of the loan, it is less important, as the thing that the lenders are really looking out for is overcommitment. Even people in very good jobs are still prone to downsizing – so large monthly repayments are still undesirable. The banks and the borrowers have been given a sobering lesson in the last couple of years, and it would be naïve to think that the rules could stay as they were.