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The rise in gun sales and food stamp demand are indicators of a fearful public struggling financially, Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist, ConvergEx Group, told CNBC Monday. “Oddly enough, buying a gun still holds very steady, but buying ammunition not so much,” said Colas, who analyzes trends in the economy and financial markets. In addition to firearms and food stamps, ConvergEX reviewed sales of gold and silver coins and used cars. “That tells us that there are more first-time [gun] buyers coming in to buy firearms and that speaks to your worries about security. They buy a few rounds [of ammunition] first time, but they don’t buy more.” Colas said to determine firearm activity, he tracked FBI background checks and Google Trends for buying guns and ammunition. Likewise, Google indicated a high last month on those seeking information on how to get food stamps, he added. Sales of gold coins have levled off at 100,000 units a month over the last half year, said Colas, but interest in silver, much more affordable, is rising. “Just two years ago, silver coin sales were on the magnitude of 1 million units a month, now it’s 3 million units a month,” he added. Colas said that after a large bump in used-car prices earlier this year, prices are now unchanged. “The consumer is still on pretty shaky ground,” he added. “Confidence [is] still not all that strong, the intention to spend, still [is] not all that strong.”
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Once a month, just after midnight, the beeping checkout scanners at a Walmart just off Interstate 95 come alive in a chorus of financial desperation. Here and at grocery stores across the country, the chimes come just after food stamps and other monthly government benefits drop into the accounts of shoppers who have been rationing things like milk, ground beef and toilet paper and can finally stock up again. Shoppers mill around the store after 11 p.m., killing time until their accounts are replenished. When midnight strikes, they rush for the checkout counter. "The kids are sleeping, so we go do what we've gotta do. Money is tight," Martin Young said as he and his wife pushed two carts piled high with ground beef, toilet paper and other items. The couple said they need food-stamp benefits, which are electronically deposited onto debit cards, because his job as a restaurant server doesn't quite cover expenses for their five children. "We try to get here between 10:30 and 11 because we know we've got a lot of stuff to get. That way by 12 o'clock we're at the line cashing out and done," he said. More than a year after the technical end of the Great Recession, millions of Americans still have a hard time stretching their dollars until the first of the month, or even the next payday. One in seven Americans lives in poverty, and more than 41 million are on food stamps, a record. Last year the figure was about 35 million.