"It’s A Cash-Flow Problem": The Ever Broker US Consumer Increasingly Relying On Credit Cards For Daily Staples

Tyler Durden's picture

Somehow, in all the confusion, the endangered species known as the American "consumer" missed the economic recovery. The reason, as Bloomberg writes, is that consumers are increasingly "using credit cards to pay for basic necessities as income gains fail to keep pace with rising food and fuel prices." The data comes from credit card transaction processor First Data which reported that the dollar volume of charged purchases rose 10.7% in June (a 6.8% increase in the number of transactions). "The difference probably represents the increasing cost of gasoline, said Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, the largest credit card processor. "Consumers, particularly in the lower-income end, are being forced to use their credit cards for everyday spending like gas and food,” said Tavares, who’s based in Atlanta. “That’s because there’s been no other positive catalyst, like an increase in wages, to offset higher prices. It’s a cash-flow problem." Alas, it gets worse. As Bank of America's Joshua Dennerlein
reports today, the end of the year will see 3.7 million Americans stop
receiving jobless benefits. "This will act as a hit to consumption in
the first quarter of 2012." This number is completely independent of any
possible new legislation to extended jobless benefits for new
unemployed labor pool entrants, as it merely affects those about to hit
the 99 week cliff. Unfortunately even more "growth" over the next 6-9
months will have to come from the Fed and the only thing it knows how to
do: print, print, print.

And while this is not good news to the 44 million Americans on foodstamps, or the ever greater number of Americans who not only can not live paycheck to paychek but have to borrow from the future to fund today's staples purchases, knowing full well they can at best pay the minimum monthly amount but never the total due (just like the US government), at least the velocity of money should be rising due to the increased use of leverage by the middle class. Just as the Fed wanted. 

Rising costs of food and gasoline are leaving Americans less money to spend discretionary items, slowing the pace of the recovery, Tavares said. Household spending accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy.

The swings in purchases of fuel and food have been “dramatic,” Tavares said. The volume of gasoline purchases placed on credit cards jumped 39 percent last month from a year earlier, compared with a 21 percent increase in June 2010, he said. Food shopping increased 5 percent after falling 7 percent last year.

The value of an average transaction on credit cards outpaced the gain for debit cards, showing consumers are increasingly relying on borrowing to pay for gasoline and other necessities, Tavares said.

Who says moral hazard is limited to the kleptocratic oligarchy. It has now shifted to Joe Sixpack. Oh yes: look for all those bank reported credit card delinquency terms to soar in a month or two, assuming they actually reporting anything close to reality, instead of, like Bank of America, lying outright about everything).

The use of credit cards is a “smoking gun” that indicates some consumers, including the long-term unemployed who have lost jobless benefits, are resorting to other sources of cash flow just to “get by,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc. in Toronto.

“People on the margin are putting necessities on their credit cards and this is a trend that’s very consistent with what lower-end retailers have been saying about their paycheck cycles,” Rosenberg said.

The impact is especially difficult on discount retail stores like Wal Mart and Family Dollar:

Core customers of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) are “cash strapped,” William Simon, U.S. stores chief, said at a June 15 conference hosted by William Blair & Co. “The paycheck cycle is severe.”

Similarly, customers of Matthews, North Carolina-based Family Dollar Stores Inc. (FDO) are living “paycheck-to-paycheck,” so when gas or food prices go up, “they don’t have the cushion that many others might have,” Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Levine said on a June 29 conference call.

There may be a silver lining:

A possible bright spot is that inflation may moderate as prices of commodities stabilize, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said July 13 in his semi-annual testimony to Congress. As of July 19, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas had dropped 7.6 percent from May 4, when it reached an almost three- year high.

Perhaps. However, with Europe launching indirect QE via its own version of QE-cum-TARP earlier today, we predict that the only direction for all commodities going forward (ignore any short-term blips coming out of Congress-based newsflow), will be up.

And now for the really bad news from Bank of America:

Labor market slack remains high. The number of unemployed workers collecting unemployment insurance benefits through their state funded programs fell by 50,000 to 3.698 million. Meanwhile the number of unemployed workers collecting benefits from the federally funded programs declined by 133,000 to 3.698 million. Overall, there are more than 7.3 million unemployed workers relying on unemployment insurance checks for financial support. At the end of this year the federally funded benefits are set to expire so 3.698 million consumers will lose their weekly benefit checks. This will act as a hit to consumption in the first quarter of 2012.

Prepare for the hockey stick economic growth predictions to be brutalized over the next few months as more and more realize that H1 of 2012 is going to be the ugliest period since the beginning of the depression. It also means that the Fed will have no choice but to further devalue the dollar. What that means for various asset classes should be all too clear by now.

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Ahmeexnal's picture

When the price of gold stabilizes at one trillion soetorobucks per ounce, will inflation moderate?


Cash Flow problem? Seems to me it's more of a Cow Flash problem.

wsmith's picture

Gold, gold, gold!

What you really need is a heated shack, a case of pork and beans, and a Becky Quick blow-up doll.

Welcome to the new normal.

Anyway, so long.

And God bless all you Marxist cocksuckers.


Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Did they have credit cards during the great depression?

LongBalls's picture

America will default on it's debt. Unfortunatley a countries default starts at the kitchen table.

Bob's picture

Now this crazy shit has passed that inflection point to funny!  Fuck you, too, wsmith!

Oh, yeah: you cheap gold-fucking whore!

Taint Boil's picture

A little something for the banks:



…………../´¯/)……….. (\¯`\
…………/….//……….. …\\….\
………../….//………… ….\\….\
…../´¯/…./´¯\………../¯ `\….\¯`\
.././…/…./…./.|_……_| .\….\….\…\.\..
(.(….(….(…./.)..)..(..(. \….)….)….).)
.\…………….\/…/….\. ..\/……………./
..\…………….. /……..\………………/
….\…………..(………. ..)……………./
……\………….\……… ../…………./


TruthInSunshine's picture

Gold is the currency of Kings.

Silver is the currency of gentlemen.

Barter is the currency of peasants.

Debt is the currency of slaves.


Debt is on the rise again. Bernanke is succeeding.



Stoploss's picture

Liking the ads on the main page. I detect a hidden message there.

Ahmeexnal's picture

Bullets is the currency of uprising.

Founders Keeper's picture

[Gold is the currency of Kings.

Silver is the currency...]---TruthInSunshine

You could post this message every week for a year and it would never lose impact.  Thank you.

(I think of "silver" as the currency of merchants.) 

Every free individual can be the King of his/her home and a Merchant of their community. Gold & Silver = freedom.


Archimedes's picture

I don't have a PHD but I think we may be in trouble..........

Cole Younger's picture

Yep...but the PHD's don't think we are in trouble...Keynesian economics and all

Oh regional Indian's picture

Terrnace mcKenna had a pHD in plantology and he called it cycles ago.



cougar_w's picture

I don't think Joe 6P can be accused of moral hazard in the case of using his CC to buy food, and then bailing on his payments.

It's called being broke.

Sounds a little different, doesn't it?

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

I don't think Joe 6P can be accused of moral hazard in the case of using his CC to buy food, and then bailing on his payments.

When you consider that the alternative might very well be resorting to burglary and/or robbery in order to buy food, the case can be made that running up a credit card and then bailing is exercising sound judgement. Burglary and robbery are crimes against other members of the community. Stiffing the big banks on credit card debt is more like reclaiming some of your blood from a leech.


cougar_w's picture

Shemp was always my favorite stooge.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Shemp-- the forgotten Stooge.

carbonmutant's picture

Especially since this is the standard being set by the current administration...

FEDbuster's picture

Let's not forget all the 99ers rolling off the unemployment dole that are chronically unemployed.

Perhaps the banksters will raise the debt ceilings of every American with a credit card?  Give me a couple cards with $1 mil. limits, and I can roll it to the end with 0% transfers.  "The more debt you have, the wealthier you are" Congressman Pete Stark (D. CA).

1100-TACTICAL-12's picture

Use'em up & tell the bankers to F-off. The globalist have gutted this country. There is not one damn thing going to get better, our economy has been offshored, and the talking heads just beat around the bush & never get to the root of the problem.

sitenine's picture

This takes me back to 2008, when The Bernank quaintly opined that, "it's not about liquidity, it's about access to credit."

Well, when one lacks the liquidity to pay back the credit, it's a FUCKING LIQUIDITY PROBLEM Ben!!!

Why does this man still have a job!?

Ahmeexnal's picture

nobody else wants that job

ZackLo's picture

I'll take it fed funds 25% and discount window closed, and I'll put out a call to congress that we need a cleanup stimulus on wallstreet from all the millionaires jumping out of windows look out below bitchez 911 banker edition!

Bear's picture

Simple ... The ones who is looking out for are doing great

Ag Star's picture

Because Americans are too weenie to take him down, and his puppet-masters.

NOTaREALmerican's picture

Re: Why does this man still have a job!?


Either because:

1)  He's a sociopath working for the Kleptocracy.


2)  He's a true believer in the same economic religion that brought the US unlimited prosperity for 50+ years.   


It's tough to kick the infinite debt and central-planning habit when it worked for so long and made so many people rich.    What we need is another Big-MIC to bring us 50+ years of more infinite prosperity.   Where are the leaders of the great and glorious nation when we need them to spend our way to prosperity?  

azengrcat's picture

It is called leadership.  If Uncle Sam spends more than they earn (steal) so can I!

Robslob's picture

Unfortunately even more "growth" over the next 6-9 months will have to come from the Fed and the only thing it knows how to do: print, print, print.


I must say print, print, print seems to be working...for gold.

Biggvs's picture

Or folks just increasingly pay for groceries and gas by credit card for the 3-6% cash rebate programs, like me. Or the simple convenience. Who wants to pay by cash or check?

slewie the pi-rat's picture

your question brings to mind a spectrum of possibilities.

francis_sawyer's picture

Yeah... If they were smart &/or not broke, they wouln't be using the CC's to buy food & groceries, they' be buying gold with it (& getting cash back to buy groceries)...

Dr. Richard Head's picture

I try to pay with Federal Reserve Notes everywhere I go.  No reason to help those banks increase the money supply with their "poof" money.  I also like to ask the cashiers if they take Federal Reserve Notes as well.  Pissing in the wind, I know; but every once and a while a cashier will get exactly what I am talking about.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I put a small sticker bearing Bernanke's face over the face of whatever former president is on my paper fiat. For example, on my hundreds, Jackson's face is covered with Bernanke's face.

I also cross out 'In God We Trust,' and write over that the words 'In Avarice & With Lust.'

I happen to put an asterisk by the phrase 'Federal Reserve Note' and add the language "via Federal Reserve Bank, private corporation."

Finally, I have a rubber stamp that I use on each paper fiatski, that imprints in bold letters the phrase "This IOU is not securitized by any tangible thing of value. Good luck."

Oh, one last thing: I also stamp each fiatski with a stamp that says "If you are not the lawful owner of this note, please return it to: 1 King William Street, London, England, EC4N 7AR."

-Michelle-'s picture

Well, we were using our debit card more in order to get cash rebates, but I just got notice that's on it's way out.

A new federal law will significantly reduce the revenue banks receive from merchants when consumers pay with a debit card. USAA Bank has always returned the majority of this revenue to its members in the form of benefits, such as free checking, ATM fee refunds and debit rewards.


As a result of the law, USAA Bank will end its debit card rewards program Sept. 1. Unlike other banks responding to the new law, USAA Bank is not adding fees or eliminating the benefits that members value most, including free checking and ATM fee refunds.

Pants McPants's picture

Good to know, Thanks Michelle.  I use the USAA total rewards CC instead of the debit card; as far as I know there are no plans to eliminate that rewards program....yet.

Biggvs's picture

Woohoo, I got junked! Must be moving up in the world.

Kali's picture

What scares me, is the supposed "budget/debt limit" deal, they are talking about revamping the tax code.  Wait til we see that revamp.  We will get more debt and keep less of any income, they are talking about "closing loopholes, credits, deductions, etc".   Good luck trying to eat and keep a home soon, don't care if you have no personal debt or a paid off mortgage.  You know who is gonna end up paying more.  It won't be TPTB or their friends, it will be you and me.  This will push any remaining "productive" people out of the country or force them to reduce income to avoid paying rapacious taxes (going Galt).  I am getting more convinced that nobody will be able to escape serfdom.  They want us all destitute and dependent.

Takingbets's picture

Well every year my niece gets about 9k back in her pockets from the treasury because of her children. She owns no property has no savings, no 401k, and no car half the time. The state pays for her daycare and $1100 a month in food stamps not to mention the cash too! I know she gets back every penny of taxes she pays them and more to boot! I could never understand why we would pay these people to have children???

StychoKiller's picture

Let's call it:  "Social Justice!"

The term "social justice" is now commonly used by leftist activists, clergy, educators, judges, and politicians to describe the goal they seek to achieve with many of their policies. No precise definition of "social justice" is ever offered by the left. Instead, the term is always used in a vague way -- as if everyone already knows, or should know, what the seemingly well-intentioned phrase "social justice" means.

So, what exactly is "social justice"?

Social justice is the complete economic equality of all members of society.  While this may sound like a lofty objective, what it really means is that wealth should be collected by the government and evenly distributed to everyone.  In short, social justice is communism.

Kali's picture

Why don't you ask the children's father?  Where is he?  Or is there more than one?

Yes, burns me up too.  The childcare scam is huge too.  I have a biz colleague, she collects over $100,000/yr from subsidies for ONE of her clients.  This client is an "immigrant" who was brought here by her church.  She has 9 children.  The State pays the childcare provider $1k/mo or more per child.  She gets pregnant every year.   She also collects food stamps, free health care for her and her children, housing subsidies and they pay for her to go to college. Needless to say, she doesn't work.   I think we should send the bill to the damn church that brought her here.