LegalShield Law Index Continues To Signal Softening In Consumer Confidence

“As our data have led us to expect, separate measures of retail sales released in August by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation both declined, and inflation-adjusted consumer spending also fell,” explained James Rosseau, LegalShield’s chief commercial officer. “While time will tell, the LegalShield data, based on demand for legal services, indicate that retail sales and other consumer activity may fall short of expectations this holiday shopping season.”

Though consumer finances are generally healthy, there remains a noteworthy divergence between LegalShield data and the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. Historically, when these two indices diverge, it is typically Consumer Confidence that moves into line with LegalShield data, as evidenced in the run-up to the 2008-09 recession.

“Consumer spending accounts for a huge portion—more than two-thirds—of the U.S. economy,” Rosseau said. “Although we’re not expecting a poor retail season ahead, decision makers who are counting on a banner year for retail spending might be disappointed.”

Another component of the Law Index is the LegalShield Housing Activity Index, which decreased (worsened) 2.2 points to 111.3 in September, mostly due to a weakening of LegalShield’s data stemming from real estate matters opened by its members. Housing starts declined in August and are down 6.9 percent year-to-date. The U.S. housing market continues to face significant headwinds, including rising home prices (up 6 percent Y/Y) and substantial supply shortages at the lower end of the market. Recent storms may lead to shortages of labor and building materials, further limiting housing supply. Still, if builders can overcome some of these hurdles, housing starts could improve to a 1.3 million annual pace by the end of the year.

Debuting in May, the LegalShield Law Index is made up of five indices: the LegalShield Consumer Financial Stress Index, LegalShield Housing Activity Index, LegalShield Bankruptcy Index, LegalShield Foreclosure Index, and LegalShield Real Estate Index. Each index depicts the health of the U.S. economy using LegalShield’s unique and proprietary database of member demand for and usage of legal services.

Additional predictive takeaways based on the data through September:

  • Real Estate: this component fell (worsened) 2.5 points to 101.8 in September, and is down nearly 2.0 percent year-to-date. Demand for homes remains robust, but supply shortages have drained the housing market’s momentum. The effect of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are expected to have a negative effect on home sales for the rest of the year, though elevated prices should provide a market signal to boost housing construction in the longer term. If housing starts rebound in the final months of 2017, price pressures may ease somewhat, which could boost home sales and the overall economy in early 2018.
  • Bankruptcies: A substantial worsening of student, auto, and credit card debt together could result in an acceleration of U.S. bankruptcies in the next 1-2 years. Even so, the LegalShield Bankruptcy Index continues to suggest that there is little cause for concern in the immediate future.
  • Foreclosures: A sharp increase in foreclosures is unlikely in the near-term. The LegalShield Foreclosure Index is calibrated to provide an early warning signal of an impending rise in foreclosure activity, and when this occurs, it could indicate the beginning of the end of the current business cycle.

The five LegalShield indices closely track a handful of key economic indicators, such as the Consumer Confidence Index (developed by the Conference Board), Housing Starts (reported by the U.S. Census Bureau), and Foreclosure Starts (reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association). Each LegalShield index has undergone a battery of statistical tests to validate its relationship to an existing economic indicator that sheds light on the health and direction of the U.S. economy. LegalShield publishes the Law Index monthly, on the sixth business day of each month. Please contact Jeff Monford at [email protected] for a copy of the economic assessment.

About LegalShield

A pioneer in the democratization of affordable access to legal protection, LegalShield is one of North America’s leading providers of legal safeguards and protection against identity theft solutions for individuals, families and small businesses. The 45-year-old company protects more than 1,681,000 individuals, families and businesses through its legal plans. In addition, LegalShield and IDShield serve more than 141,000 businesses. Legal plans for individuals start as low as $17.95, and identity theft plans start at $9.95.

LegalShield’s legal plans provide access to attorneys with an average of 19 years of experience in areas such as family matters, estate planning, financial and business issues, consumer protection, tax, real estate, benefits disputes and auto/driving issues. Unlike other legal plans or do-it-yourself websites, LegalShield has dedicated law firms in 50 states and four provinces in Canada that members can call for help without having to worry about high hourly rates.

IDShield provides identity monitoring and restoration services and is the only identity theft protection company armed with a team of licensed private investigators on call to restore a member’s identity. For more information, call press and corporate relations at 580-436-1234.

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About the Author: Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper is Canadian Business Tribune''s senior editor. He is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a bestselling author. He lives in London Ontario and covers the intersection of money, politics and finance. He appears periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) The National Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s,, Vice and He also has served as a journalist and consultant on documentaries for CBC and Global News . In 2014, he was the winner of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers' investigative journalism award, and the winner of the Izzy Award for Journalism from Ithaca College's Park Center for Independent Media. He was also a finalist for UCLA's Gerald R. Loeb Award and Syracuse University's Mirror Award. Before becoming a journalist in 2006, Sirota worked in Washington for, among others, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Minority Staff and the Center for American Progress.