Finance News & Insights

From horses to hookers: 15 real (crazy) economic indicators

What inflation is doing to the US Dollar

There’s no shortage of theories on when the economy will turn around. Here are 15 of the wackiest signals out there.

Indicator #1: Keenland, KY Horse Sales

What better way to gauge how the mega-rich are spending than to see who’s buying thoroughbreds? This small town outside of Lexington has a combination race track and sales company, which makes it the perfect place to track this activity.

Indicator #2: Online Dating

Tight times translate into boom times for Internet dating services, as people are looking for someone to forget the tough times with.‘s second busiest weekend ever? When the stock market bottomed out last fall.

Indicator #3:  Alligator Population

Louisiana has more of them than usual  — 100,000 to be specific, all living at the Savoie’s Alligator Farm. Normally the farm sells gator hides to luxury designers. But they haven’t sold a single one since last November.

Indicator #4: Wandering Eyes

Not only do more single people look for new love in tight economic times — so do the married ones! That’s why more of them, specifically bankers and other financial pros, are hooking up on this British “married dating site.”

Indicator #5: Underwear

This theory has been embraced by former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan. Because few folks see men’s underwear, it’s one of the first purchases to go on hold. Tough times = skivvies sales slump. When sales pick up, so do our economic prospects.

Indicator #6: Eye Makeup

In the past, this was known as the “Lipstick Indicator”: Because it’s a cheap “luxury,” women tend to buy more lipstick during recession. That’s not the case this go-around: Lipstick sales are actually down 11%. But it may have been replaced by another cosmetic: eyeliner. Eyeliner (and eye makeup as a whole) is experiencing a boom. (That American Idol runner-up is probably accounting for at least 1% of it!)

Indicator #7: Greener Thumbs

There are now 43 million gardeners in the U.S. — a 19% uptick over last year. And more than half of those folks are looking to grow their own produce in an attempt to shrink their grocery bills.

Indicator #8:  Sleeplessness

You’re not the only one losing sleep about the state of the economy. One in three Americans say they can’t sleep because they’re worried about their finances. Interestingly, the same percentage of people who say they tossed and turned at night worrying (10%) is the exact same percentage as those out of work.

Indicator #9: Packed Movie Theaters

Even at $10 a ticket, it’s relatively cheap entertainment. That’s probably why movie ticket sales have been up in each of the last five recession years.

Indicator #10: Lagging Luggage Sales

When people aren’t traveling (for business or pleasure), they don’t invest in new luggage. Merrill Lynch has been tracking this indicator: Sales are down 35% — very close to what they were in 2001.

Indicator #11: Ditched Dry Cleaning

Men aren’t buying new underwear during this recession, and it turns out they’re not washing them either! OK, in all fairness, most men don’t ship their underwear to the dry cleaner. But they’re not sending their shirts or suits there either. The dry cleaning industry reports that customers are coming in less frequently and letting their clothes sit longer before picking them up.

Indicator #12:  Mucho Mosquitoes in Maricopa

Blame it on the lousy housing market! As more homes sit abandoned or foreclosed, more swimming pools in Maricopa, AZ, sit stagnant. And that means a breeding ground for mosquitoes. County crews have already treated more than 4,000 “green pools” this year. That’s reason enough to make people itchy for recovery.

Indicator #13: Romance Reading on the Rise

If doesn’t make a love connection, there’s always some steamy reading. Romance novel publisher extraordinaire Harlequin is experiencing a massive spike in sales since times got tough: 32% in 2008 and still climbing. Keep an eye on bookstore shelves. When copies start piling up, better days may be here.

Indicator #14:  Plastic Surgery Plummets

Tough to justify that liposuction when your retirement savings are half of what they used to be! Perhaps that’s why eye makeup sales are booming — no one’s getting those eye lifts at the plastic surgeon anymore.

Indicator #15: Latvian Hookers

This may not be the most “scientific” of the indicators, even by these standards. But a capital markets blogger tracks the going rates for practitioners of the world’s oldest profession in one of the toughest economies on the planet. The current outlook? Bleak — the prostitution industry is being hit hard.

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