Chart of the Day: Luxury spending and the market
It stands to reason that the people who want to purchase a high-end fur coat right off the runway are often the same ones who are gambling on the stock market.
As such, there has long been a correlation between the sentiment of affluent consumers—who may covet the brands on display during New York Fashion Week—and stock market performance.
Unity Marketing, a firm that specializes in providing business insights into the luxury consumer, conducts a quarterly survey among the top 20 percent of U.S. households based on income, which typically starts at about $100,000. To participate, the households must have purchased a luxury good or service in the past three months.
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The survey asks these affluent consumers a series of questions—including how they feel about their financial status now and in the future, and how they feel about the direction of the country. A statistician then compiles the responses to pull together a figure representative of the group's confidence, which is known as the Luxury Consumption Index (LCI).
A score of 100 is the baseline from when the survey began in 2004.
"The fact is, who's invested in the stock market on an individual level? It's the affluent consumers," said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing. "I don't think it's unexpected that you're going to see their financial situation going closely with the stock market."
The LCI has followed the same general trend line as the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrials since it began 10 years ago. But it has bounced around a bit more than the indexes, which aside from 2014's early dip have seen a more steady rise in the years after the recession.
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Danziger attributed this movement to the level of uncertainty that remains in Washington over issues such as Obamacare and unemployment. It's also tied to a new way of thinking among the affluent group's lower-tier earners, who in many cases have tapered their spending from $3,000 handbags to $300 options.
"It'd be nice to see [the LCI] go up, but I don't think it'll ever reach where it was in 2004," she said.
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Hana Ben-Shabat, a partner in the retail practice of consulting firm A.T. Kearney, said the volatility seen in stocks so far this year will likely put a dent in retail consumption if it continues. This is especially true among the aspirational luxury shoppers, who can't afford luxe goods on a regular basis but splurge on special items. Since their net worth isn't as high to begin with, when their investments take a hit, they are typically the ones who feel the least comfortable with their finances.
"The minute people have a real or perceived risk for their assets or their total net worth they will think twice before they spend," she said.
—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson. Follow her on Twitter