Black Friday has come and gone and the results are mixed. On the one hand there was much more traffic in the stores than last year, but the average consumer has been spending a bit less and more cautiously. The same pattern seems to have emerged in the business community, as indicated by the shifts in the Credit Managers' Index (CMI). For the first time in some months, the reports suggest that sales are rising at a pretty rapid clip. The index noted a jump from 51.1 to 55. Given that last year's number was at 34.4, this is pretty encouraging news heading into the depths of the holiday season. There was also some positive movement in terms of new credit applications and dollar collections. The new applications number went from 52.7 to 55.4, much improved from the 45.2 notched in November 2008. Dollar collections had been pretty steady for the past several months, ranging from 50 in November 2008 to 53.4 in September this year. For two months in a row that level has improved more dramatically-54.7 in October and 55.8 in November. All of these improvements in the positive factors are encouraging.
In general there was improvement in the non-favorable category as well, but the pace has slowed from what it was in October and September. There have been fewer disputes and fewer rejections of credit applications and a marked reduction of accounts placed for collection. The data suggest that creditors are still working to get their financial affairs in order in anticipation of better times ahead. The pattern in the past has shown that creditors start to work toward catching up a few months before they anticipate getting back into higher levels of production. To accomplish this, they need to more readily engage their suppliers.
November marks the second month in a row that the CMI crested 50, mirroring the trends identified in the Purchasing Managers' Index. The growth in credit availability remains a major concern in the business community as a whole and there are still some strong headwinds as far as the financial sector is concerned, but there is some renewed activity going into the Christmas season and that is a good sign.
NACM's economist, Dr. Chris Kuehl, indicated that this latest set of survey results reinforces some of the assessments that have been made about the future. "As sales increase and credit applications are granted, there is a sense that more business is optimistic about the coming year than not. It was revealed in a recent KPMG survey that business confidence is improving and the CMI provides a clue as to why. Access to credit remains a limiting factor for many businesses, but there is evidence of the logjam loosening. In conversations with credit managers and through the comments sent along with the survey, there is a sense that there are growing opportunities for the best customers and a willingness to get engaged with those showing a plan and some progress."
A full report can be found here.