Gail Neufeld is a 43-year-old single mother of two in Great Neck, N.Y., and when she talked about the economy, Wall Street hung on her every word.
So, how does she feel about things today?
"I feel good," she says. "I feel like the economy is on the upswing."
Neufeld isn't an economist, she's a court reporter. But as CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports, she's one of the people questioned for the consumer confidence survey. In August, the month Neufeld participated in the survey, she and the others thought things were going pretty well and the Dow promptly jumped up almost 23 points.
"Do I feel valuable? Yes, I feel valuable," she says.
And she should. Every month, Wall Street waits to see what people like Neufeld say.
The sentiments of 5,000 people like Neufeld are carefully tabulated every month to determine how consumers feel about the economy.
David Wyss, the chief economist at one of Wall Street's oldest firms, Standard and Poors, analyzes the survey every month and says, "This is a number that people pay attention to."
He says it's important because it moves the market.
"When it goes up, stocks go up," he says.
"I guess when you put it that way now I do feel a little more important or powerful," says Kelly Williams, who was surveyed last October.
Wiliams and her family live in rural Michigan. When she and the others said they were happy, the Dow leapt up 140 points.
"It just seems like my answers would be so trivial and I wouldn't see how they could actually have an effect on something as big as the economy," she says.
But it's because Williams and Neufeld are so average that they are so far from trivial. The people down there have to pay attention when average consumers speak because consumers power the economy.
"When Gail Neufeld speaks ...,'' said Neufeld, making a joke on the famous E.F. Hutton commercials.
And for investors everywhere, let's hope she stays optimistic.
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.