Tooth fairy index says buy stocks

Young boy smilling using marshmellow as front teeth

(MoneyWatch) Much like other highly scientific and reliable indexes that prognosticate stock prices and the weather, parents' annual "tooth fairy" payments to kids have been tracked to predict stock market movements since 1998. This year's news is good: The tooth fairy shelled out 15.2 percent more in 2012.

That's a sign, almost as reliable as Punxsutawney Phil's ability to predict the weather or the Super Bowl's impact on the financial markets, that the economy is on the upswing. In short, such barometers should be taken with a huge grain of salt, if not ignored altogether. But if you're inclined to believe such forecasts, dust off that resume. It's just a matter of time before the job market is humming again.

The tooth fairy index, tracked by employee benefits provider Delta Dental, surveys 1,200 parents nationwide to find out whether their kids get payments for lost teeth and, if so, how much. It turns out the tooth fairy is even more prevalent than Santa Claus, with roughly 90 percent of U.S. families reporting that said fairy swings into action whenever their children lose a denticle. (An NBC poll some years ago noted that 86 percent of Americans, regardless of religious affiliation, believed in Santa when they were youngsters.)

The most common payment for a lost tooth is pretty consistent -- $1. But the first tooth lost is more valuable, fetching an average payment of $3.49. And in roughly one-fifth of households the take is far more generous -- $5, which, of course, skews the average.

However, in 2 percent of the households, children get a gift such as a toy, candy or gum rather than cash.