Despite enjoying a recession-free period longer than most anticipated, recent findings from a survey conducted by Bloomberg reveal that the U.S. consumer's resilience might soon wane.

Over half of the 526 participants of Bloomberg's Markets Live Pulse Survey anticipate U.S. personal consumption-a pivotal catalyst for economic growth- to drop by early 2024.

This would mark the initial quarterly dip post-pandemic. Surprisingly, 21% foresee this decline beginning earlier, by the close of 2023, attributing it to escalating borrowing costs that bite into household finances as pandemic savings diminish.

Factors like easing inflation and robust employment statistics have fueled hopes of an economic soft landing. However, if consumer expenditure shrinks, this could signal further drawbacks for stocks, already showing a decline since their peak in late July.

Retail-Linked Stocks Have Boomed In 2023

The SPDR Retail ETF (XRT  ), encompassing prominent consumer-centric corporations, has showcased positive returns since the start of the year. Among the fund's components, Carvana Co. (CVNA  ) emerges as a front-runner, boasting an 800% surge year-to-date. Similarly, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF  ) and Inc. (AMZN  ) have seen respective increases of 132% and 65%.

The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY  ) has surged by over 30% this year, notably surpassing the 17% rise of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY  ). Beyond the impressive 100% increase of Tesla Inc. (TSLA  ) this year, the cruise sector has notably shined with both Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. (RCL  ) and Carnival Corp. (CCL  ) registering nearly 90% growth year-to-date.

A Final Fling Or Genuine Growth?

Predictions hint at U.S. economic growth accelerating in Q3, due to a spike in household expenditure, which witnessed a significant leap in July-the highest in half a year. However, some financial analysts are speculating whether this could be the economy's swan song.

Bloomberg's chief U.S. economist, Anna Wong, debates the sustainability of this consumption vigor, predicting a potential recession onset by year-end, as discretionary spending fades.

Researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco express concerns over depleting consumer savings, a sentiment echoed by the majority of survey respondents.

Debt Fears Weigh On U.S. Consumers

Debt indicators like rising credit card and auto loan delinquencies loom large, especially after the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes of over 5 percentage points.

Furthermore, the resumption of student loan repayments following the post-pandemic pause casts another shadow on numerous Americans.

With the soaring cost and dwindling availability of credit, especially with mortgage rates reaching near-historic highs, many survey participants view this as the foremost challenge facing consumers in the immediate future.