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The US consumer 'has the whole world on its back,' Pacer ETFs president says

U.S. consumer confidence neared a record high in the last quarter of 2019, according to The Conference Board’s latest report. Pacer ETFs President Sean O'Hara says the U.S. consumer is becoming increasingly important to the economy.

The U.S. consumer has the whole world on its back right now in terms of propping everything up,” O’Hara told Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker. “The consumer is the strength of our overall economy, and them spending more money is what's helping keep this thing alive.”

The Conference Board's report tallied consumer confidence in the fourth quarter at 122 points on a scale of 54 to 138 points. That is just one point less than 2018’s historic high. The report cited a strong labor market and low unemployment for the boost. 

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is handed a pen by U.S. President Donald Trump after signing "phase one" of the U.S.-China trade agreement during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Similarly, Bloomberg released its own data, finding the U.S. consumer had hit its highest point in nearly two decades. Its reading also indicated the index’s eighth weekly gain in the past nine weeks.

This comes as President Trump signed Phase One of a trade deal with China. The deal, signed Wednesday, includes a $200 billion increase in Chinese purchases of U.S. goods in the next two years. Still, The Conference Board Chief Economist Bart van Ark says trade negotiations have yet to directly affect the consumer.

“The consumer hasn’t really seen much of this,” van Ark tells Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM. “Most of that was not on consumer goods. It was on industrial goods and industrial materials. This trade deal leaves a lot of tariffs in place. It also leaves a lot of room to use the tariff instrument in order to retaliate in case one of the two partners is not keeping to this.”

Now analysts are hoping the signing of the Phase One deal will boost confidence as markets continue to reach record highs.

“The good news about the growth in this bull market that is about 11 years old, is that it's been slow, steady growth,” O’Hara explains. “I think we can continue to see the market push higher.”

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