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US Economy-what's perception vs reality

Real Estate Agent with Port Washington Properties

It seems that every day there is another economic report out that different individuals interpret differently. Today, the joblessness report showed that "only" 502,000 new unemployment claims were made, which was 10,000 less than the previous month and 8,000 less than anticipated. The "gurus" jumped all over this report, letting us know that this was economic news. Although it probably was good news because things were getting significantly worse, it certainly wasn't good news for the 502,000 individuals putting in new unemployment claims. And this was on top of the over 10% already receiving regular and extended unemployment benefits, not to mention those who have taken lesser work or given up looking (estimates are a total of approximately 17.5%).
Also, in today's news, WalMart announced its 3Q economkic figures, and the net revenue was better than anticipated. That could be interpreted as good news, or not so good if one factors in that the increased net was based on lower than anticipated revenues, which means that obviously WalMart had made some "efficiencies" to improve its numbers.
Over 80% of the companies reporting 3Q figures have reported better than anticipated numbers. Does that mean that we are gradually coming out of the recession (hopefully), or that companies are cutting jobs making themselves more profitable, or that the "experts" are under-estimating, or some combination of the three? It all depends on PERCEPTION.
Most experts believe that the worst of the recession has passed, and that there will be gradual, but slow improvement during 2010. Historically, companies begin recovery periods by hiring part-time workers before they add full-time employees. However, since the average number of hours the American worker has dropped to only 33 hours per week, will companies then simply have existing workers put in a little more time. I believe that this figure of number of average hours per week will be a significant one to look at when we want to see how much progress is being made in getting out of the recession.
The housing market is an important one to follow as an indicator of the economy. Government incentives have slightly shored up the housing market, but it will not bounce back until there is some restoration of consumer confidence. For anyone who is in a position to buy a house, there has rarely been this great a buying situation, when you consider the combination of relatively low prices, low mortgage rates (average 30 year mortgage rates dropped today to 4.91%), tax incentives, and selection on market. Yet, many potential buyers are still adopting a "wait-and-see" approach, and just taking their time. Most experts believe that home prices, and mortgage interest rates will nudge up toward the second half of 2010. Again, consumer confidence and perception is a primary factor in this evaluation.
So, what is really going on? Huge US deficits, a weak US dollar, a recession, high joblessness and under-employment, are all unfortunate realities. Corporations have reacted by making themselves more cost-efficient, but unfortunately that exacerbates the unemployment challenge.  The economy does not appear to be getting any worse! The next important step is to see how consumer confidence reacts. Halloween shopping was nearly 30% down this year, and if Christmas shopping bounces back somewhat, that will be an important indicator that consumer confidence is increasing. Many major retailers have already announced that they will beging "Black Friday" sales early, and be more aggressive in their marketing this season. Hopefully, some of the seasonal employment will be extended and we see a restoration in the job area as early as the second quarter of 2010. Vacation travel during the holidays, and overall travel in  January and February of next year, will also be important indicators of consumer confidence.
Since most experts believe that one of the driving forces in creating this recession is the high cost of energy, job creation should be created by having the government create alternative energy incentives, and for hiring and re-training into that industry. T.Boone Pickens has promoted heavily his Pickens Plan, with the goal of US energy independence, by using alternative energy (he prefers windmills), and natural gas (because of its abundance in the US). Creating jobs in this area would be a short-term and a long-term solution, because it addresses not only employment, but a stronger US energy policy.
The American electorate must demand from it's politicians that they become leaders. Leadership and statesmanship means that "polls" should not dictate policy, but that they need to be effective problem solvers. It can be done, and must be done, for the U.S. to again become the strongest economy in the world. I truly believe that if the American public clearly demands "real change," instead of empty promises, we can "jump-start" our economy, and consumer confidence. I urge you all to join with me.

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Chris Brunner
GreatFX Printing - Springfield, MO
GreatFX Printing

You know I don't quite understand why the stock market is doing what it's doing.  Unemployment is up, housing prices are down, commodities are rising, dollar is falling, national debt is rising, cost of doing business is rising.    It is defying all logic.  Quite possibly artificially inflated/manipulated by banks a.k.a. market makers themselves?

And, I completely disagree that the worst of the housing bust is over.  In fact, it is just getting started.  In 2005 32% of all home loan applications were 5/1 ARMs due to adjust in 2010.  In 2006, the number was 26%.  We have at least 2 years left for short sells and forclosures. (source: Freddie Mac ARM Annual Surveys)

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but this is my take on the near future.  The time to prepare yourself is now.

"It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked." -Warren Buffett


Nov 12, 2009 01:54 AM
Steve, Joel & Steve A. Chain
Chain Real Estate Investments & Mortgage, Steve & Joel Chain - Cottonwood, CA

Richard,  I don't believe we've seen the last of the Government's mandated stimulus actions. While Chris' forecast of pending resets may well be  accurate.  The actual outcome isn't quite so easy to forecast.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Government "encourage" banks to include principle reductions in the loan mods to increase their long term success.  It's one of those actions they can take without printing more money. The banks that received the TARP funds should be willing to do so even if it is an agreement after the fact. 

Nov 12, 2009 02:08 AM