Pent-up consumer demand key to growth

After years of holding back on purchases, the newly hired are keeping the domestic economy humming.

By Jim Cramer Sep 6, 2013 9:29AM

thestreet logoOffice workers © Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures, Getty ImagesHow much pent-up demand is out there? Is it perhaps the missing ingredient behind the strength that we are seeing in this domestic consumer market?


There's no doubt in my mind that the real place to be in this fourth quarter is in international companies. We have the possibility of real tailwinds coming out of Europe now that we have multiple stronger economies and, yes, a stronger currency (all perfect timing, given how lean our companies are over there). China is coming back in a way that is stealthy, through targeted infrastructure, and we can see that it has drawn down a lot steel, coal, iron and, as of some just-released figures, copper. (We started buying back Joy Global (JOY) Thursday because almost everyone has downgraded it and China is now opening a new coal plant every 10 days.)  


But the biggest surprises this week have been domestic. The car sale story, as talked about as it is, still doesn't get enough attention. I think 17 million cars could be more like it. I don't like the housing theme and I think it hit a wall, but it isn't a wall that moves housing back to where it was. It just retains it at current levels.


Mortgage rates are elevated, but we didn't see a big drop in applications this time. Some analysts were trying to say that's because rates dropped a tad. I would like to believe that as a housing bear. But I think what really happened is that rates stabilized and buyers came back.


Plus, we got still one more great number from a retailer skewed to hard goods, with Costco (COST) confirming, again, that the consumer's spending, but just not on apparel.


I think this is a sign that we have simply misjudged the pent-up demand from the unemployed going to the employed. We just got it wrong. When these people come back into the workforce, they buy tangible goods. Or when they get a second job they go buy a new car. Rates for cars, by the way, haven't gone up. They've gone down, something that's as stupendous as the inversion where higher mortgages get lower interest rates.

It's just a fact that this pent-up demand was far bigger than any of the prognosticators figured because it hadn't snapped back yet from the Great Recession. That's because, we are now learning, it snaps back only with job growth and we are getting that growth in the U.S. economy.


What's helping it, by the way, is the recognition that if you have the ability to get to Texas or North Dakota and some parts of Colorado and Wyoming, jobs await you. That was quite evident from an interview Home Depot (HD) CEO Frank Blake gave to CNBC Thursday where he said that they just opened a new Home Depot in Williston, N.D. because the Bakken formation is creating so many new jobs and so much construction. These jobs are coming fast and furiously now as the Bakken, the Niobrara, the Delaware Basin in the Permian and Eagle Ford are showing to have much more oil than thought as recently as two years ago.


So we are discovering day by day that the demand is exceeding forecasts simply because the people getting jobs look to have been buying nothing and doing nothing for the five years intervening since the recession.


That's why people keep getting the numbers wrong. They stopped counting these people. They are back. They are buying. And they are keeping the domestic economy humming in a nation where 10-year rates have almost doubled in a few months. It was really never about the rate of credit with these people anyway. It was about getting credit at all. When they left the workforce, rates were much higher anyway. This might turn out to be the theme for the last part of the year.


Bulls should hope people keep misjudging it. That's how the domestic stocks can go higher. That's how Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) break out to unheard-of levels and it is how the regional banks regain strength as demand comes back in all sorts of places that we had just plain forgotten about.




Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and is long COST, F, and JOY.



More from

Sep 6, 2013 10:18AM
Like most everything in life yesterday will be different than tomorrow.  Here is my take on future consumer demand.  As relative income continues to decline consumers will be forced to make choices.  And soon these choices will become more difficult and in time will no longer be choices but necessities. Look to Central America or Mexico and see how little money is dedicated to long term consumerables.  Things like dishwashers, washers and dryers will be repaired rather than replaced. Auto fenders much like in Havana will be off colored and a general survival tone will be the norm.  Second hand shops in a secondary economy will proliferate.  Jim we must recognize we are no longer living in the America we grew up in.  We are at present seeing the devaluation of human existence right now, right here before our eyes.  Adjust, accept, and deal with The New World Order our electerds have illegally volunteered most Americans to now live by.
Sep 6, 2013 10:32AM
decades of stagnant or falling  workers incomes in terms of real buying power and now years of job growth primarily in low wage-no benefits -part time jobs does not equate into rising consumer demand or a recovering economy in any way-shape or form
Sep 6, 2013 10:07AM
The newly hired are keeping the economy humming?  Seriously??  Most of the newly hired are working for close to minimum wage.  Have you looked at GDP lately?

Pent up demand?  Sorry, just not seeing it.  Durable goods orders are down.  Let's look at auto sales.  There's no pent up demand - there's just a bunch of necessity.  There are tons of people who are holding onto cars longer than ever, and we're reaching the point where they have no choice but to get another one.  This goes for contractors and builders too - there are tons of them, hanging on by a thread, working out of 13 year old trucks that have 300k miles on them.  Ordinarily, they would have bought a new truck 4 years and 100k miles ago.  But they didn't because the economy was in the tank.  Just because they are buying now isn't an indication of some great improvement, it's an indication that their truck is worn out and they have no choice but to get another one.

Home Depot is building another store in ND?  No kidding - maybe because that's the one place where there's tons of high paying jobs.  I challenge anyone to walk into their local Lowe's or Home Depot at 7AM and head on over to the lumber department.  A few years ago, these places were buzzing at this time of the morning.  Trucks were lined up outside waiting to pull up to get their order.  There were groups of "undocumented" workers standing in the parking lot, waiting to be picked up for work.  Contractors were standing in line with purchase orders and on their phones telling their crews where to go.  There were about 4 guys driving forklifts to get the materials off the shelves and outside to a waiting truck.  Go to one of these places now and tell me what you see.
Sep 6, 2013 10:10AM
"pent up demand" is a farce.  people out of work, just  getting BACK to work, can sleep easier but do not start buying of substance until they feel SECURE at work.  and that can take several years. 
Sep 6, 2013 11:08AM
I don't think I'll ever be the consumer I once was.

My grandparents had lived through the Depression, and they really never spent money on anything except for necessities, even when their financial situation improved considerably.

Sep 6, 2013 11:00AM
More drivel from the master of bluster .....

Car sales - do they include all the lease deals I have been seeing in California in the last 6 months.

Essentially cars were being given away - I even saw some $99 a month deals ......

Smells like another shell game to me ...........

What's the odds cramer and his masters are actually selling as they cheer for us to buy?
Sep 6, 2013 11:36AM
How to cure the lack of funds to meet 'pent up demand'?

I know this is going to sound counterintuitive and draw
down lots of "no" votes, but I will send the refrain nonetheless..

Its time to re-evaluate the chronic problems resulting from
ineffective wages and how families are living on the margins
due to the 1 percent needing the 90 percent and leaving the
remainder to fight amongst the scraps. 

CON-gress, raise the minimum wage !!!  Do it NOW!!!

IF you all want more spending to re-trigger capital flows,
give the little guy a buck an hour more and see the money
fly into the economy.  Tens of Millions spending an extra
buck will mean so much more than a couple of hundred
hoarding the excess.  (and whining about how tax regs
are 'killing their profitability" - Ha ha)

Yes, laughing to keep from crying.   OBAMA I am talking
to you....Make a motion to stay on our side of the Ocean
and RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE, or maybe its just time
for you to switch to the Republican party banner, since
you are always trying to outdo their folly.

That is all!  LOM Dispatch out... and have a fine weekend.

Sep 6, 2013 10:35AM
cramer has his "gee, the poor people are really doing quite well" attitude again today
Sep 6, 2013 12:03PM
Lets cry pent up demand when the 20-28 crowd can move out of their parents house after they find a decent job.   That ain't happening yet now is it. Mr Cramer.  When the interest rate is near 0,  so your money market/deposits don't make a damn thing you are already forced to consume and spend.  Instead we see news of people struggling and being forced on gov't aide.  You gotta dig deep and see what kind of jobs are being created to get through the labor statistic nonsense.  Labor participation rate anyone!!!!
Sep 6, 2013 11:02AM
A few weeks ago I mentioned keeping an eye on the low wage food workers plea for increases in their wages.  I said at the time to watch the reaction form the electerds and how they dealt with it.  Remember Obama coming out and talking about doubling the minimum wage.  Notice the complete and total avoidance by anyone in DC.  Even these false icon demos that say they stand up for the little guy gave zero recognition or support.  If any of you still believe the goal of $3 per hour wages is just in my imagination this is but one more clue.  Contraction and deflation in wages and buying power to match up with lifestyles in the Asian Rim, India, Central America, and Mexico is still alive and on track.  JMHO
Sep 6, 2013 10:48AM
Yes there is pent up consumer demand, however, we can't afford it.
Sep 6, 2013 11:45AM
As a fallow up to 4loves post,
If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be at $10.75 an hour.  In Ontario it went from $7.25 to $10.25 (the current wage) in 10 years.  There has been NO MEASURABLE INFLATION because of it so I will debunk that theory before it begins.
Sep 6, 2013 10:49AM
I'm thinking the bond buying continues until 2014.  I think in the first meeting of the year they decide to slowly withdraw and in Feb they will only buy between $75-80 billion and slowly tapper from there.  Thinking they don't want to ruin Christmas this year.  This leads me to believe that this autumn will be a more traditional one, dipping in Sept and early Oct, with the market rebounding until January.  Slow job gains, that's old news (sad but old news), Syria is the one wild card.  I believe USA and Russia will negotiate a face saving agreement, maybe a few bombs that don't alter the situation on the ground and then things can normalize.
The debt crises I believe will be kicked down the road and that's what the main issue of 2014 election will be.
Sep 6, 2013 11:22AM
Interesting trend: Over the past few months I'm noticing that people on both sides of the political spectrum are more in agreement about our current state of affairs than we've been in years. We may not agree on the solutions, but at least now most people see the problems.

Note: This doesn't apply to Mr. Fat Cat or STD  :P

Sep 6, 2013 2:42PM

I came into the World naked....I'll probably go out that way, showing my bare azz to Fatty Cakes..

Here comes that Moon Shot, boy..

Sep 6, 2013 12:31PM

"The President will address the nation on Tuesday"

For the record, it looks like a game of chicken to see who attacks who first. It's reckless insanity based on the premise that you can defend. For what purpose?

Four straight days of Bernanke pumping fiat money into markets with inept business platforms and seniors reaping the spoils, not anyone who comprises an economy. That's terrorism and you allowed it. That's not politics, it's crime.

The nation and economy have been destroyed by hollow Hubris built on clique technology. It doesn't get any dumber or more ignorant.


Quit today, let common sense address us Tuesday with the recovery plan that actually recovers people. Change-- what 90 million of us got was planned condemnation not reality.

You know what you can do with your Twitter.

Sep 6, 2013 10:13AM
sitting here in england the past week, i'm hearing from the workers here about their sticker shock upon buying the winter season of oil.  this is "oil buying season" for many of them.  1000 pounds of oil is about $1750.  enough to cut into your play money



of course there is a lot of pent-up demand out there. Over 70 million Americans now make on average less than $16,843 a year. They need food on the table, clothes, cars to drive them to work, homes that have costs in line with what they make homes selling for $60K or less.


With the revised job grow of June and july revised down by 79,000 jobs each month this means the job growth has not even been keeping up with new people turning job age.


Look our entire economic system is set for self destruction folks. Hmmm the Federal Reserve is printing money to keep asset prices higher than they were before the crisis, wages have been falling by 8 percent a year adjusting for real inflation. This is not a situation that spells long term happiness for anybody either rich nor poor.


The economy is totally dysfunctional. We are still in the mist of a Death Spiral of Lost Jobs and an ever weaker and weaker economy.


To hear that one of the most profitable companies in the history of the world would not be able to make profits if they paid their workers $2 an hour more. Heck they could fire everyone at Walmart making over $250,000 a year and be able to pay their workers $10 an hour more and double their profits. LOL


What Nixon said about the doomed is true.

Sep 6, 2013 11:16AM
Pent up demand?  You assume that people haven't learned anything over the last four years.  We have learned that a person doesn't have to keep buying things they don't need in order to be happy.  We have learned that it is far more important to save than to spend.  Our spending has been cut back drastically.  You know something?  We don't even miss it.  Life has become simpler and richer.  Satisfaction in life doesn't come from the things you own or the things you are able to do.  It comes from who you are in your inner person.  It comes from your relationships with God, family, other people.  We don't see ourselves ever returning to the free-wheeling ways of the past.  The fool's paradise will eventually crash.
Sep 6, 2013 11:02AM

Well CGT......Are the "scumbags" buying ??

Did you guys get the order to increase or step up or shut up...?

Pretty wild swing on the DOW....

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