Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT), Bank of America Corp (BAC): How Public Perception Can Crush the Stock Market

Big business is one that rarely is perceived in good light by the public. However, big businesses (in this case, corporations in excess of 500 employees) were responsible for 57% of all employee compensation in 2011 according to a New York Times report. For instance, you’ll have no problem finding people who dislike Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) for its anti-union leanings and the fact that it uses its big wallet and clout to undercut local stores on price. Yet, there’s also little denying that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is a key indicator of the health of the U.S. economy since it employs a staggering 1.3 million people in its stores and warehouses. If public perception of the key employers in the U.S. continues to fall, this could be a big problem.

Perhaps a far bigger concern was the drop-off in the confidence ratings for the medical system and Congress.

The drop-off in confidence in our medical system appears to be in direct relation to the growing uncertainty surrounding the upcoming implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in January. While this bill will expand the quality of care received and expand insurance coverage to lower income individuals, it also could add a hefty burden onto the middle-class which could face rapidly rising monthly premiums.

The public’s opinion on Congress, though, takes the cake! At no time in Gallup’s history of polling the public on their opinion of Congress since 1973 has it been this low. Over the past four decades, high levels of confidence in Congress has fallen from 42% to just 10%. It may actually be more amazing that there are still some 20 million-plus adults in this country that do have faith in Congress to find compromises on issues such as the U.S debt-ceiling and balancing the budget. As for me and the remaining 90% of the adult population, Congress has shown a penchant for destroying investor wealth by kicking the can further down the road rather than coming together and comprising with one another to solve our nation’s problems.

The takeaway
The takeaway from this Gallup poll is very simple: If we as a nation have no faith in Congress to work together to help grow the U.S. economy and reform our U.S. health care system for the better, and we’re distrusting of the businesses which are responsible for employing the vast majority of Americans, then how can we expect the Dow Jones Industrial Average 2 Minute (INDEXDJX:.DJI), S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX), and NASDAQ Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) to head higher?

Public perception such as Gallup’s just might be the closest thing we have to an emotions-excluded viewpoint of where the American people stand with regard to confidence in the U.S. economy. We can look at economic data until sunrise, examine chart patterns, and debate whether or not Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) has the right tools to squeeze an extra 10 basis points out of its margins. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not the American consumer has any faith left in the system to push the market higher. Based on the figures I’m seeing here, we could be on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the markets.

The article How Public Perception Can Crush the Stock Market originally appeared on Fool.com is written by Sean Williams.

Fool contributor Sean Williams owns shares of Bank of America, but has no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends, Bank of America.

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