Do Confidence Gains Mean More Market Gains?

Consumer confidence remains tepid but has been rising, recently hitting its highest level in four years. Is that good news for stocks? MarketWatch’s Mark Hulbert says no.

Hulbert analyzed three decades worth of confidence data and stock returns, and found that the biggest monthly jumps in confidence tended to be followed by sub-par stock returns, he writes. He also found that changes in the stock market tend to have a bigger impact on confidence than confidence does on the market. When stocks rise, confidence jumps, and when stocks fall, confidence falls.

“What these statistical results mean: Consumer confidence tells us more about how the stock market has already performed than it does about the future,” Hulbert says. “But insofar as consumer confidence tells us anything about the future, it’s that stronger readings are more negative than positive for the stock market. … The bottom line? Don’t get carried away by the apparently good news that consumer confidence is at its highest level in more than four years.”