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2013 - Good Year Or Good Riddance?

FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
by Gary D. Halbert
December 31, 2013

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. AP Poll – What the Public Thought of 2013

2. Direction of the Country – Right Track, Wrong Track?

3. What Mattered in the News in 2013

4. Obama, Congress – Approval Ratings Plunge

5. Latest Rasmussen Polls – Not So Optimistic

6. Americans’ Outlook For 2014

Overview

It’s New Year’s Eve, so I thought it might be interesting to look at some recent polls to get a sense of how Americans feel about how things went in 2013 and what they considered to be the most important news stories of the year.

We’ll start with the most recent Associated Press-Times Square polls which asked a wide range of questions about Americans’ views of how 2013 turned out, and a host of other interesting questions and findings.

We’ll also look at some polling averages from RealClearPolitics, including the “Right Track, Wrong Track” poll on the direction the country is headed. In addition, we’ll look at President Obama’s latest approval/disapproval ratings, as well as those for Congress (think ugly).

Next, we’ll browse through a bunch of new polls from Rasmussen which cover a wide range of consumer concerns that I think you’ll find interesting.

Finally, we’ll look at some recent polls that suggest how most Americans feel about the economy in 2014. Surprisingly, almost half of those polled think 2014 will be better than 2013. That’s easy to say when responding to a poll, but as I have discussed in recent weeks, we must see a rebound in consumer confidence if this economy is to get back on the right track.

AP Poll – What the Public Thought of 2013

The latest Associated Press-Times Square polls out last week found that, on the whole, Americans rate their own personal experience in 2013 a little more positively than negatively. Yet when asked to assess the year for the United States or the world at large, the results were worse this year versus 2012.

—All told, 32% say 2013 was a better year for them personally than 2012, while 20% say it was worse and 46% say it was about the same. Young people were more apt to see improvement: 40% of people under age 30 called 2013 a better year than 2012, compared with only 25% of people age 65 or older.

—The public splits evenly on how the year turned out for the country, with 25% saying it was better than 2012 and 25% saying it was worse, with half somewhere in between. As with most questions about the state of affairs in the US these days, there’s a sharp partisan divide. Democrats are more apt to say the US turned out better in 2013 than 2012 (37%) than are Republicans (17%).

—Thinking about the world at large, 30% say 2013 was worse than 2012, while just 20% say it was better.

Direction of the Country – Right Track, Wrong Track

As we all know, poll results can vary widely depending on what questions are asked.  That’s one reason why RealClearPolitics is such a valuable service. RCP monitors all of the main polling services and then calculates the average results from all the different pollsters.

One of the least manipulated poll questions is this: Do you believe the country is headed in the right direction or is on the wrong track? RCP averages the findings of eight different polling services, and here are the latest results.

direction of country

As you can clearly see, both answers have been trending in the wrong direction for most of this year. Only 30.4% of Americans polled feel the country is headed in the right direction, whereas 63.5% (over 2-to-1) believe the country is on the wrong track, although both have improved somewhat in the last few weeks.

What Mattered in the News in 2013

The implementation of Obamacare topped the list of the most important news stories of 2013, with 26% citing it as number one. Even in an Associated Press survey of news directors and editors – a generally left-leaning group – some 45 of 144 journalists (31%) surveyed called the disastrous healthcare rollout their top story.

In the AP-Times Square poll, the death of Nelson Mandela occurred as the poll was underway. It rose quickly, with 8% naming it as the most important news of the year, matching the share citing the federal government’s shutdown in October.

However, while only 8% said the government shutdown was the most important news of 2013, some 60% of Americans rated the shutdown and the rare bipartisan budget deal as “extremely important” or “very important.” About two-thirds in each major party, 65% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats, rated it very important.

A majority said the Boston Marathon bombings were extremely or very important, and 47% considered the national debate over gun laws equally important – even though the gun law discussion went nowhere in Congress.

In addition to the Obamacare debacle, the government shutdown and the Boston Marathon bombings, my list of important events in 2013 would include:

  • The ongoing NSA spying scandal that continues to widen
  • The IRS audit scandal (non-profit conservative groups)
  • Failure to stop the continuing massacre in Syria
  • Immigration reform stalled out in Congress
  • Reid & Senate Democrats nuked the filibuster
  • Supreme Court struck down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act)

These are just a few events and scandals that come to mind – I’m sure there are others I failed to mention. What is common among these events, however, is the fact that the mainstream media went out of its way not to cover most of them in any detail.

Obama, Congress – Approval Ratings Plunge

President Obama’s approval rating trended sharply lower throughout 2013 and then plunged to new lows shortly after the botched Obamacare rollout in October. More importantly, his “disapproval” rating soared to new highs.

The latest RealClearPolitics average of 14 polls has Mr. Obama’s approval rating at only 42.6% versus his disapproval rating of 53.6%. Need I say more?

President Obama Job Approval

And then there’s Congress. According to the latest RCP average, public approval of Congress is only 13.9% with a disapproval rating of 80.0%. And that’s after a modest improvement in both readings over the last few weeks.

Congressional Job Approval

With public disapproval of Congress at 80% or higher, you wonder how most of these lawmakers get re-elected term after term. And this is not just a “lately” thing. As you can see in the chart above, the disapproval rating has been significantly higher than the approval rating for years.

Maybe the upcoming mid-term elections will usher-in more sweeping changes in Congress. Republicans think Obamacare is their ticket to a big win next November. The Democrats who can are distancing themselves from Obamacare. But a lot of them are on record as saying, If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it... They hope Obamacare is working a whole lot better by next November.

Even if Obamacare is much improved by the November mid-term elections, that won’t remove the anger among the millions of Americans whose healthcare plans they wanted to keep, as promised, were cancelled. Democrats have no one to blame for that but President Obama himself.

Latest Rasmussen Polls – Not So Optimistic

With that brief political departure, let’s get back to some more recent polls, this time from Rasmussen. Here’s what they had to say about the polls they took in the last week or so.

So where does the nation stand just before we launch into a tempestuous congressional election year?

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure the daily confidence of both groups are up again. They are still short of their highs for 2013 but remain well ahead of where they have been for the last several years.

But just 29% of Americans say now is a good time to sell a home in their area. That’s the most pessimistic assessment of the local housing market since March.

At the same time, 62% of homeowners say their home is now worth more than what they still owe on their mortgage. That's the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking on this question in April 2009.

Seven percent (7%) of homeowners admit to missing a mortgage payment or paying late over the last six months, and slightly more (10%) think it is at least somewhat likely that they will miss or be late on one in the next six months.

Meanwhile, the two biggest problems facing the Obama administration – the new national health care law and the National Security Agency’s controversial domestic spying programs – are still front and center.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters view the health care law unfavorably, and 27% say it has forced them to change their health insurance. The law which was passed back in 2010 finally rolled out officially beginning October 1, and to say its debut has been rocky would be a major understatement.

More voters than ever (43%) think the NSA’s secret monitoring of Americans’ phone calls and e-mail messages will be the controversy that outlasts the others dogging the Obama administration. The government claims the programs are anti-terrorist measures, but voter confidence in how the United States is doing in the War on Terror has fallen to its lowest level in over two-and-a-half years.

Sixty-three percent (63%) continue to support the U.S. government’s use of unmanned drones to kill terrorists overseas, but only 26% favor Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ idea of using drones for commercial purposes such as package delivery. Just 17% support their use by police agencies in this country.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters favor the U.S. government sending drones and missiles to Iraq to help fight al-Qaeda-led insurgents there. Only 12%, however, believe that U.S. soldiers should return to Iraq to help protect the democratically elected government.

In other surveys last week:

-- Twenty-eight percent (28%) of voters say they are both fiscally and socially conservative, while 11% are liberal in both areas.

-- Seventy-five percent (75%) think parents should have a choice whether to send their children to a school that allows prayer.

-- Eighty-seven percent (87%) of Americans celebrate Christmas in their family, and 68% of these adults celebrate the holiday primarily as a religious one.

-- Sixty percent (60%) consider Christmas to be one of the nation’s most important holidays.

Americans’ Outlook For 2014

The outlook for the new year is more positive, according to the latest AP-Times Square poll: 49% of Americans think their own fortunes will improve in 2014, with 14% anticipating the new year to be a downgrade from 2013. Some 34% say they don’t expect much to change.

The world economy has experienced another year of subdued growth, having failed to meet even the most modest projections for 2013. Nonetheless, some positive developments in the latter part of the year are expected to gain momentum through the coming year. According to the latest United Nations forecast, the world economy is likely to grow by 3% in 2014 – notably stronger than the 2.1% annual rate estimated for 2013.

The Fed’s latest forecast puts US economic growth at around 3% for all of next year. Plus, the Fed just promised to keep short-term interest rates at near zero for another two years or longer. The Commerce Department is not so optimistic, with its economic growth forecast at 2.6% for 2014.

Business spending is expected to rise by 4.5-5.0% next year, versus around 4% in 2013 – that could mean more jobs. The housing sector is expected to continue to improve next year, with existing home sales rising by at least 4-5%. New home sales are likely to climb by about 16% to 580,000 next year, following a whopping 36% increase in 2013.

Most forecasters expect the US unemployment rate to fall to around 6.5% by the end of 2014, down from 7% in the latest report. Unfortunately, most of the decline in the US jobless rate in 2013 was due to frustrated workers leaving the workforce, but the last two monthly reports have been a little more encouraging.

Most analysts expect US retail sales to increase by over 5% next year, compared with an estimated 4.5% increase this year. The estimated gain in retail sales is expected, once again, to be led by strong auto sales.

All things considered, there is growing optimism that 2014 will be a better year overall than this year. Yet that outlook assumes there will be no major negative surprises in 2014. That remains to be seen, of course. And there are a lot of risks still out there. Keep your seat belts on!

Finally, let me extend my sincere thanks to all of you who read this E-Letter on a regular basis. Your loyalty means a LOT to me! As always, your comments and suggestions are very important, so please keep them coming.

Wishing you a happy and profitable New Year,                                                   

Gary D. Halbert

SPECIAL ARTICLES

2014 Could Finally Bring a Recovery (Maybe)

A Large New Tax on Small Business

If Obamacare was bad in 2013, just wait until 2014

 


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Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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