Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
The popular Christmas song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written 50 years ago as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
It has relevancy today. As maybe a plea for peace and unity in our own country, or for hope.
You have to wonder what people like Michele Obama are hearing, or not hearing, about the future of our country — our economy, our way of life, our individual prosperity. Especially when they make outlandish comments about despondently losing hope for the future, over a presidential election.
“Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like,” Obama said in a televised interview with Opray Winfrey.
Conservative commentator and money manager Charles Payne wonders if Obama is listening, and what she is hearing. “Obviously she’s not paying attention to certain things,” Payne says. “And I think that’s irresponsible for the first lady to say.”
The numbers don’t bear out Obama’s contention. Most Americans are optimistic and hopeful, according to these recent reports:
— In Florida, consumer confidence surged dramatically in December to its second-highest reading since 2004.
— Throughout the U.S., consumer confidence is at the highest level since August 2001.
— Meanwhile, the confidence of U.S. homebuilders soared this month to the highest in 11 years.
— Home sales in the U.S. have reached the fastest pace since 2007.
— The so-called “Trump” effect has produced a 10 percent gain in the U.S. stock markets since the Nov. 8 election.
It sounds like hope is abounding. At an accelerating pace. Regardless of what the naysayers contend.
Hector Sandoval, a director at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, sees and feels the enthusiasm. “Overall, Floridians are far more optimistic this month,” Sandoval said in respect to the consumer confidence numbers for November.
One economist echoed similar feelings. “The election of Donald Trump has raised household expectations for the economy to a very high level,” says Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.
While household expectations are soaring, so are home sales. Through the first 10 months of this year, new home sales are 12.7 higher than last year. The demand has dwarfed supply. The median sales price of a new home in the U.S. now exceeds $300,000.
Ed Brady, a homebuilder and developer, is bullish on housing.
“This notable rise in builder sentiment is largely attributable to a post-election bounce,” says Brady, who is also chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, “as builders are hopeful that President-elect Trump will follow through on his pledge to cut burdensome regulations that are harming small businesses and housing affordability.” Brady cites a recent study showing that regulatory costs for home building have increased 29 percent in the past five years.
Reducing regulatory costs extends beyond just homebuilding, as Payne sees it. Trump has campaigned also on scaling back the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. These regulations have been “an unmitigated disaster for would-be homebuyers and small business start-ups,” according to Payne.
In regard to Obama’s comments, Trump said maybe she was talking about the past. When her husband successfully ran on a campaign of “hope and change.”
“We have tremendous hope,” says Trump. “And we have tremendous promise, and tremendous potential.” Sounds like a precise prescription for a healthful new year.
(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor with a major U.S. firm who lives on Amelia Island. His financial columns appear in several newspapers in North Florida. He recently published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of columns he has written over the last 20 years. The book is available on Amazon.com and in local bookstores. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or [email protected])