Mark Dolliver’s Takes: 11%

What’s the matter with men?

One thing you can rely on in consumer-confidence data is that men will be cheerier than women. But that pattern collapsed last month in the Washington Post/ABC News Consumer Comfort In-dex, which uses a scale from +100 (great) to -100 (lousy). In the first half of 2007, women’s Comfort Index number averaged -13.8, vs. +3.72 for men. Until late May, men’s number never fell below 0, while women’s number never rose above 0. In the July 8 survey, though, the men’s number was worse than the women’s (-9 vs. -8), and the same was true the following week (men at -12, vs. women at -10). Trolling back through the archives as far as January 2006, we didn’t find a single previous instance in which men were less confident than women. By the end of July, men had passed women, but by just a single percentage point in the July 31 reading. We’ll watch to see whether men rally, relative to women, or remain down in the consumer-confidence dumps. In the meantime, the numbers suggest this is not a propitious time to launch a product whose fate depends on men’s robust animal spirits.

Legroom, vacation and food

• Among people who’ve flown in the past six months, 63 percent would be willing to pay a premium for extra legroom. (Maritz Poll)

• 65 percent of parents say “being on vacation is harder than being at home,” which tells us why 35 percent get home “exhausted.” (Parenting)

• A reason why we gain weight: The market for gifts of food grew 47 percent between 2004 and 2006 and is forecast to gain another 45 percent (to $23 billion) by 2010. (Packaged Facts)