U.S. Consumers Are Feeling Quite Ill

The big macro can cause big moves in the market. What does today's headline macro news mean for your portfolio?

What's happening: The private research firm The Conference Board released its October consumer confidence data, and it didn't look good. The overall index fell 6.6 points to 39.8.

In plain English, please: The October reading is the lowest since March of 2009 and reflects a 7-point drop in The Conference Board's Present Situation Index and a 6.4-point drop in the Expectations Index.

The question, of course, is what this means for investors. The times when consumers are most pessimistic -- like March 2009 -- are often the times when the economy may be ready to turn. At the same time, dour views on the economy do not necessarily mean consumers' wallets are slamming shut, so it's important to also keep an eye on what consumers are actually doing, as reflected in numbers like retail sales.

With all of that said, we certainly don't want to minimize what a sour consumer mood could mean heading into the holiday season.

Stocks to watch: As we head toward the all-important holiday season, the willingness of consumers to spend is key for a great number of companies. We're talking about everyone from toymakers like Hasbro (NYS: HAS) , to brick-and-mortar retailers like J.C. Penney (NYS: JCP) , online retailers like Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) , consumer-electronics giants like Apple (NAS: AAPL) , and clothing companies like Abercrombie & Fitch (NYS: ANF) .

Want to keep up to date on these stocks?

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Hasbro, Amazon.com, and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer has no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter, @KoppTheFool, or on Facebook. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.

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