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Retail Forward’s monthly Future Spending Index suggests that the coming month should be a good one, with the index rising to 104.6 from 103.5 last month.

"Job and income gains and the housing boom should give many shoppers the confidence to bump up their spending in September, particularly Middle Market consumers," said Steve Spiwak, an economist with Retail Forward. "At the same time, weaker assessments of job security will discourage some Down Market spending, while the August stock market falloff likely will take a modest toll on Up Market spending this month. The surge in gas prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will dampen overall spending, though Down Market households will be hit hardest.”

At the same time, the Conference Board reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to 105.6 this month from a revised 103.6 in July. The index averaged 96.1 in 2004.

However, optimism was not universal. The University of Michigan’s recently released Consumer Sentiment Index, said that consumer confidence for August was at an 89.1 level, down from 96.5 for July and 96.0 for June, but above an 86.9 reading in May.
KC's View:
While we have just come off a vacation during which you’d think our mood would be lifted, we have to admit to a certain level of pessimism tied to the condition of the world. It is hard to imagine that consumers are feeling any level of optimism considering the recent tragic events on the Gulf Coast, the rising gasoline prices that require the taking of a second mortgage to fill your car, the ongoing specter of terrorism that continues to hang over the civilized world, and the growing death toll in foreign lands where American forces are engaged.

On the other hand, Oscar Wilde once said that “the basis of optimism is sheer terror.”

Little did he know.

Of course, all these surveys were conducted before the storm and while gas seemed affordable (at least by altered standards). But somehow press releases and studies trumpeting improved consumer confidence seem completely out of context and out of touch.

On days like these, it is hard even for us to whistle “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”