Experienced investors know that often, you have to try to reconcile apparently contradictory information in order to draw valid conclusions on which to base your investment decisions. Today's consumer-oriented economic data presents a good example of this phenomenon: The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index rose to its highest level in nearly six years, but personal income and spending figures both declined slightly, defying expectations. One key to resolving the dissonance is in the continued lack of inflation we've seen lately, which has made it less important for consumers to get substantial pay raises in order to keep up their consumption levels. Investors didn't react strongly, and the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) is within a point of breakeven as of 10:50 a.m. EDT.
Within the Dow, Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has fallen 1.6% as a natural victim of declining consumer spending. The company is apparently looking to restructure its internal business divisions into four new groups, expanding beyond its current beauty and grooming unit and household-care businesses. Subdividing those broad categories could create more internal competition to drive innovation, but investors seemed unconvinced that the move would lead to a quick turnaround in the company's flagging growth in recent years.
Energy giants ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) have both declined about half a percent after OPEC announced that it would keep its cap on oil output at its current level of 30 million barrels per day. Yet arguably more important is the cartel's forecasts of a continued fall in demand for OPEC crude, largely owing to the big rise in North American production stemming from unconventional sources like shale plays and Canada's oil sands. For now, at least, OPEC's influence on the overall oil market has diminished significantly, and that's at least some relief for consumers who are already paying more at the pump than they'd like.
Finally, Annaly Capital (NYSE:NLY) has dropped more than 1%, continuing the recent declines that have cut 14% off its share price since the beginning of May. The sector has been turbulent lately due to uncertainty about when the Federal Reserve will stop providing massive liquidity through bond purchases, and that turbulence appears likely to continue in light of rising interest rates.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron and Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.