This quarter, according to a new number from TrimTabs Investment Research, we're poorer than we were a year ago. What makes this number significant is that, unlike other statistics used to gauge the health of the economy, it measures people's ability to spend by including oft-overlooked sources of cash - like capital gains from stocks. And what makes it so useful is that it takes into account the cash people get from selling property or by extracting equity from their homes.
This stat may be the hammer that bangs the final nail into the recession coffin.
With consumers having less cash to spend, sales of things people don't really need will be affected the most. Splurging on jewelry, cameras and electronics, nice cars and clothes, and dinner at pricey restaurants will be done only by the very wealthy, reckless, or clueless. On the other hand, retailers of inexpensive cars, food, and clothes should be affected the least.