NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Weak consumer spending and sentiment threw cold water on markets Friday, though the S&P held tentative gains, while the Dow tried, but failed, to follow.
As the machine that powers 70% of the U.S. economy, consumer spending is closely watched by investors. Spending fell in April for the first time in a year after March's pop, while personal income gains were modest. Rounding out the trifecta, consumer sentiment was worse than expected.
Yep, we were happy to let poor Q1 GDP slide Thursday, but data suggesting we won't get a big bounce in Q2 is a worry. That's a big part of what we're rallying on: "the economy, stupid."
Yet those who "sold in May" would have foregone modest gains of nearly 2% for the month, as the bulls still tenaciously hold sway. There were more S&P record highs this week on positive economic data -- but caution pervades the options market, where bets on future gains are fast vanishing.
It's all about the ECB next week, with bond markets taking Draghi at his word that the stimulus toolkit will be used. And U.S. markets should react positively in the counterintuitive fashion that says, "Europe's economy is in trouble, so they're bolstering liquidity. And stocks are more attractive when rates are low and cash is looking for a home, so the party isn't over... ignore that low inflation..."
--- By Jane Searle in New York
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