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 theUnited Statesor 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 theUSthese days, there’s a sharp partisan divide. Democrats are more apt to say theUSturned 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.  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. 

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%. 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. 

Americans’ Outlook For 2014

The outlook for the 2014 is more positive, according to the latestAP-Times Squarepoll:

  • 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.
  • 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 putsUSeconomic growth at around 3% for all of 2014. 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% versus around 4% in 2013 – that could mean more jobs.
  • The housing sector is expected to continue to improve this year, with existing home sales rising by at least 4-5%. New home sales are likely to climb by about 16% to 580,000 following a whopping 36% increase in 2013.
  • Most forecasters expect theUSunemployment 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 theUSjobless 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 expectUSretail 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 last 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!

Gary D. Halbert is the president and chairman of Profutures, Inc.  Subscription rates for Forecasts & Trends is $197 for 12 issues and may be obtained by visiting his website at www.profutures.com.

 

 

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