The Car Wash Index: leading economic indicator?
On a recent frigid Sunday morning, Rocky noticed a long queue of cars at the full service cash wash ($12), but the self-service car wash ($3) next door was completely deserted. Rocky hypothesized that this might be a leading indicator of improved consumer sentiment — and perhaps a bullish omen for the stock market.
Rocky needed a car wash, and he didn’t like to wait. He pulled into the deserted self-service car wash, and fed a five dollar bill into the change machine. Only a single quarter came out. The car wash owner explained that the change machine dislikes the new $5 notes, and the owner handed Rocky five $1 bills. (Rocky now had a 5% profit.)
Instead of taking his $0.25 windfall and driving away, Rocky turned the machine to “soapy wash” and began to douse his car with a high pressure stream of soapy bubbles.
The soapy stream lathered the vehicle, and instantly turned into a frozen coating of thick white custard — denser than the shaving cream an old-time barber uses. The liquid froze solid as it reached Rocky’s car!
The wash cycle ended after five minutes, and Rocky’s car had a white frozen shell. Rocky scraped the ice from his windshield and drove off, having mummified the encrusted road salt and sand under this new protective ice finish.
Rocky glanced in his rear-view mirror as he drove away, and saw shiny, clean cars pulling out of the expensive full-service car wash down the street. Perhaps a little early to aggressively buy stocks, he concluded.