Surprise! Americans Plan To Spend More This Holiday

Steve Liesman

Forget the credit crunch, housing recession and slowing economy. Americans plan to open their wallets this holiday season, though maybe not on those cheap Chinese toys.

CNBC’s quarterly “Wealth in America Report” finds that American plan to spend an average of $839 on Christmas gifts, up 17% from November 2006.

Spending plans surged in every region of the country--for white collar and blue-collar workers and for nearly every age group.

The survey of more than 800 Americans, conducted Oct. 4 through 6, helps allay fears that the summer credit squeeze and rising foreclosures could cause consumers to pull back on their spending.

In fact, the survey found that 74% of Americans have had no trouble getting a loan and 90% of homeowners think the value of their real estate will either stay the same or increase over the next year.

But the survey does offer a note of caution if housing prices fall substantially. About a quarter of Americans say they tend to spend less when the value of their homes or stock portfolios declines. And expectations of gains in housing prices have declined, with more Americans expecting a decrease from 11% to 9% and more Americans unsure of how much the value of their homes will rise.

Home Price Optimism

On the stock market, more than half of American believe a recurrence of the 1987 crash is unlikely and about half believe now is a good time to buy stocks.

Meanwhile, recent headlines about imported toys tainted with lead paint appear to be turning Americans off to Chinese goods and on to American-made products. More than half say they are less likely now to buy Chinese goods.

The survey found that 66% of Americans will pay more for an American-made product--but only a bit. About 47% of Americans say they'd pay up to 10% more for the Made in the USA label.

But the belief that the GOP is better for the economy took a hit in this poll. Asked which party would be better for your personal finances, Americans gave Democrats the edge over Republicans 29% to 24%. Those who think both would do the same were not far behind with 21% while 20% believe neither party is any good.

But it may not be as bad it appears for the GOP. Americans who call themselves Democrats now increasingly outnumber Republicans. In this poll, reflecting national trends, Democrats represented 33% of those surveyed, compared with 22% for Republicans. So the gap between those who believe the Democrats are better than Republicans for their personal finance is not as large as the gap between those who call themselves Democrats vs. Republicans.