Chin Up in the Downswing


Chin Up in the Downswing: Dow Ends March, Q1 2009 Like a Lamb; U.S. Consumer Confidence Nudges Up; Armani Stays on Top of Trends

March 31, 2009 06:04 PM
by Anne Szustek
Traders and consumers ended March on a positive note, with the Dow showing a sharp uptick to close out the quarter and the Consumer Confidence Index up slightly. And, in a testament to the resiliency of retail, fashion house Armani is still flourishing.

Wall Street Ends the First Quarter of 2009 on an Upturn

Wall Street ended March—and the first quarter of 2009—with a late-day rally on all three major indices. “The S&P 500 gained 22 points, or 2.8%, to 809;” reported Forbes magazine; “the Dow Jones industrial average was up 191 points, or 2.5%, to 7,713; and the Nasdaq added 51 points, or 3.4%, to 1,553.” This was despite sluggish housing data from the Case/Schiller home price index; Forbes also points out that “more timely readings like housing starts and sales have been showing mild improvement of late.”

Consumers Remain Confident Through March

The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 26 for March, up from 25.3 last month on the back of more positive expectations about the economy. The index, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted by New York-based research group The Conference Board, showed its first increase since November. However, Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center, said in a statement, “Apprehension about the outlook for the economy, the labor market and earnings continues to weigh heavily on consumers’ attitudes.”

Armani’s Success Demonstrates that Consumers Are Always Right

Both personally and in the retail sector, Italian fashion stalwart Giorgio Armani continues to make a splash. The 74-year-old designer just bought a new yacht and has opened up a giant flagship boutique on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. How has he weathered the recession? By sticking to classic items that sell well, argues Daily Finance writer Sarah Gilbert. Building his fashion empire on jeans in the 1980s, the designer still manages to sell gowns with a five-digit price tag. How does he do it? Armani produces what people want, Gilbert says: “There will always be those who can afford luxury; there will always be a customer for Armani's product.” That is consumer confidence in its purest form.

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