Luxury Market and Wealthiest 10% of Americans Expected to Push Economy and Stocks Higher

Affluent Consumer Expectation (ACE) Index of The American Affluence Research Center Looks Stronger Than the Consumer Confidence Surveys of The Conference Board and The University of Michigan

MIAMI, May 24 /PRNewswire/ — The seventh in a continuing series of twice- yearly surveys by The American Affluence Research Center (AARC) reveals continued optimism in the 12-month economic outlook of the wealthiest 10% of Americans, the 11 million households representing about half of all consumer income and spending and a third of the total U.S. economy.

The ACE index for the overall 12-month economic outlook remains at a relatively positive level, as does its individual components of business conditions, the stock market, and household income. The index, which declined only slightly from Fall 2004 due to a rise in the outlook for household income offsetting most of the declines in the other two components, remains in positive territory despite an 18-month decline to its historic low.

Just released, the AARC report, “The Luxury Market: Spring 2005 Survey of Affluent Americans,” reflects a more optimistic outlook than the Conference Board’s Leading Index, Consumer Confidence Index, and Consumer Expectations Index, with the latter down for the fourth consecutive month to the lowest level since July 2003. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, reflecting weakness in the Consumer Expectations Index, also declined in April for a fourth consecutive month to its lowest level since September 2003.

The affluent gave somewhat mixed signals about their future spending plans in the AARC survey. Plans for major purchases such as the acquisition of vacation homes, home remodeling, and cruises are at historic highs. However, plans to acquire motor vehicles (now at a historic low), boats, and primary residences have declined over the past 18 months.

The AARC surveys also track spending plans over the next 12 months for 17 categories of goods and services, including major appliances, home computers, furniture/furnishings, entertainment equipment, casual and upscale dining out, entertainment, recreation, domestic and international travel, designer and non-designer apparel, collectibles, fine jewelry, and political and charitable contributions.

Of the 17 future spending indexes, eight are at positive readings and nine at negative readings. Of the seven categories at historic highs, four remain at negative readings. Two categories are at historic lows: home computer equipment and fine jewelry/watches.

The new AARC survey provides information on brand quality rankings for eight different product categories (fine watches, fine jewelry, automobiles, lady’s designer/couture apparel, major home appliances, home entertainment equipment, and cruise lines).

Data on the awareness of, ownership of, and intentions to purchase variations of the new concepts of fractional ownership and membership clubs for vacation homes, private jets, large boats, and exotic cars is also provided in AARC’s new report.

Other new information includes identification of the employment status of the female head of household and the household decision makers for seven major spending categories.

Highlights of the national survey of 346 men and women in the wealthiest 10% of American households can be found on the AARC website, . The survey participants have an average income of $369,000 and an average net worth of almost $2.7 million. The survey has a 5% margin of error at the 95% confidence level.

The complete 32-page report containing 30 tables may be ordered by calling 305-933-4887 or at . Contact AARC for press copies.

AARC provides marketing research and consulting services that focus on the lifestyles, attitudes, and purchasing behavior of the most affluent segments of the population .

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