So you're having a hard time figuring out where the auto market is headed. You're not alone. The trends are all over the map.
Unemployment remains high. The stock market has been soaring (at least before last Thursday). Consumer confidence is plunging. Consumer spending is up.
U.S. auto sales have dropped sharply for six straight months. But the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate continues to rebound, and average transaction prices are approaching $40,000.
Four months ago, the optimism of auto dealers, as measured by Cox Automotive's quarterly Dealer Sentiment Index, was recorded at an all-time low. In the latest survey, which we write about on Page 9 of this issue, the outlook is much brighter. But don't do any cartwheels just yet. Cox Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke sees a darker outlook for the next quarter, particularly if finding enough new and used vehicles to sell remains a big issue.