CHICAGO — MANY EXPERTS, including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, report economic growth in recent months, albeit at a modest pace.
The 12 Federal Reserve Districts, in their January report, showed expanded activity since the previous Beige Book, with all 12 showing modest or moderate growth. Consumer spending was up, with 2012 holiday sales somewhat higher than in 2011. Ten districts reported steady or stronger automobile sales, and tourism activity was up across much of the nation. Transportation services in six of the districts showed increases, while manufacturing reports were mixed (six districts reported an increase and three reported a decrease). And real estate activity (for sales and rentals of existing homes) held steady or increased slightly in 11 districts.
THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTERS reported an increase of 3.6% in the net operating income of U.S. shopping centers for 2012. The figure is 2.3% higher than 2011, and expenses were reported to be down by 0.1%.
SIXTY-FIVE MEMBERS of the National Association for Business Economics participated in the January 2013 NABE Industry Survey, and results indicate a steady rate of growth in the fourth quarter of 2012. The survey further indicates that members are planning for continued growth in 2013, and appear to be more optimistic than when the last survey was conducted a few months ago.
THE ECONOMY DID NOT IMPROVE IN ONE AREA, though non-farm payroll employment numbers were up by 157,000 in January. The overall unemployment rate remains steady at 7.9%, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate has not changed significantly since September. More than 12 million Americans remain unemployed, with the number of long-term unemployed holding steady at 4.7 million.
MORTGAGE APPLICATIONS WERE DOWN 8.1% at the end of January from the previous week, says the Mortgage Bankers Association.
A year-end report from RealtyTrac showed that the 2012 foreclosure rate increased from 2011 figures in more than half of the 212 metro areas; however, more than 85% of the markets reported that foreclosure activity was down from 2010, the year when foreclosures peaked for most markets.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE SHOWED only a slight increase in January as consumers remain pessimistic about the economy. According to the Survey of Consumers, conducted by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, the payroll tax increase has had a significant impact on lower-income households.
“When asked to describe recent changes in their financial situation, declines in disposable incomes were much more frequent among households with incomes below $75,000,” says Richard Curtin, Survey of Consumers chief economist. “While consumer spending will slow in 2013, spending by higher-income households … will keep consumer spending slowly expanding in 2013.”