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How to Invest Given Consumer Headwinds

NEW YORK ( Fabian Capital Management) -- Welcome to the summer of 2013.

Much of the U.S. is facing rising temperatures, rising oil prices, and rising interest rates, three trends that may ultimately cool the white-hot stock market and alter the landscape of consumer activity for the rest of the year.

Most of us are used to the seasonal spike in gas prices that typically comes around this time of the year. But the 12% rise in the price of the United States Oil Fund (USO) over the past four weeks is certainly going to make life more difficult for travelers that are tightening their belts and preparing for summer vacations.

USO tracks the daily price movement of West Texas Intermediate light, sweet crude oil, which has been gaining steam since the middle of June.

This fund just recently hit new 2013 highs and does not appear to be running out of momentum any time soon. We may see oil prices continue to soar this summer as consumer demands ramps up during the peak driving season and supplies dwindle. This imbalance of supply and demand most likely will favor continued strength in the energy sector for the remainder of the summer months.

Another factor that will weigh heavily on consumers this summer is the recent spike in interest rates, which will undoubtedly temper mortgage and housing activity. Refinancing and mortgage applications have dropped significantly already as homeowners re-evaluate the affordability of their payments in the wake of higher interest rates. Many households may have to scale back their plans to refinance their homes or move into more expensive houses that would have been affordable when 30-year fixed mortgage rates were less than 3.5%.

Two areas of the market to watch this summer that could be affected by higher interest rates and slowing housing activity are the banking and real estate sectors. The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) tracks 48 banks across the nation and currently contains $2.4 billion in assets under management.

Many of the underlying banks derive a portion of their revenue from mortgage activity, and their future profits could take a hit if the application downtrend continues. In addition, the iShares U.S. Real Estate ETF (IYR) could also hit a stumbling block if higher interest rates slow the acquisition of new property and development by real estate investment trusts. At my Web site, I note five funds to buy for rising interest rates.
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