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Friday, January 18, 2013

Wells Fargo: Looking Past The Fiscal Cliff

Economic data this week generally pointed to stronger activity in December than expected. It appears consumers and businesses largely looked through the uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff to focus instead on the improving fundamentals of the economy. However, consumers’ resolve may weaken once they see their first paychecks of the year, while businesses are likely to remain cautious ahead of an agreement on the debt ceiling.
For now, consumers seemed to have shaken off their fears of the upcoming tax changes in the final shopping month of the year. Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in December, beating expectations for a 0.3 percent gain, and followed an upwardly revised figure for November. Excluding sales of gasoline, retail sales rose a more robust 0.8 percent. Auto sales posted the largest monthly gain of the major retail categories, rising 1.6 percent.
As expected, holiday sales improved more modestly in 2012 than in 2011. Retail sales less autos, gasoline and restaurant purchases for November and December rose 3.2 percent in 2012 versus 5.7 percent the previous year. Sales were up in most holiday categories this season, led by an 11.9 percent increase in sales at non-store retailers. However, general merchandise stores, which include department stores, saw sales decline 2.3 percent as shoppers increasingly made purchases online.
Industrial production came in as expected, rising 0.3 percent. The underlying details were more encouraging than the headline. Total production was lowered by a 4.8 percent decline in utilities output due to above-average temperatures in December. Manufacturing production looked more solid, rising 0.8 percent, with widespread gains across industries. Despite worries that the upcoming fiscal cliff would derail business investment, production on business equipment rose 1.3 percent. While December’s gain is encouraging, the first of the January PMIs leave the outlook for the manufacturing sector cloudy. The Empire Manufacturing Survey posted its sixth straight decline, while the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey showed manufacturing activity fell during the first month of the year. With the sequestration provision pushed back to March and the debt ceiling fast approaching, it is likely that firms will remain cautious in the near term until fiscal policy is further clarified.
Inflation pressures remained well contained in December due to lower energy prices. The Producer Price Index fell for the third consecutive month and has moderated to a 1.3 percent year-over-year pace. Broad consumer price inflation was flat in December, while core inflation ticked up 0.1 percent.
Housing starts data showed that the recovery in residential real estate is on a firm footing. Starts jumped to a 954,000-unit pace in December, a 12.1 percent increase over November. Some of the jump may have been attributable to regulatory changes set to take effect this year and seasonal noise, but the trend remains solidly upward. Starts rose 28 percent in 2012, while builder sentiment in January remained at its highest level since 2006 according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Home Builder survey.

Housing Starts End the Year with a Bang

Housing starts surged 12.1 percent in December to a 954,000-unit pace, likely reflecting seasonal noise and some year-end tax jitters. Multifamily starts rose 20.3 percent and single-family starts were up 8.1 percent.

The Outlook for Housing Starts
We expect starts will increase to a sustainable pace of roughly 990,000-units in 2013 with much of the gains in single-family. Despite some monthly volatility, all price measures are improving which should encourage more single-family activity as the labor market continues to strengthen. With single-family gaining solid footing, multifamily will likely begin to stabilize. We believe the trend toward multifamily housing will continue, but starts should see a peak in the next few years. That said, the housing market will likely continue to be a bright spot for the U.S. economy over 2013 with real residential construction continuing to add to real GDP growth.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Bright Spot : Residential Construction

Residential as the Bright Spot: Cycles Matter

Residential construction remains the economy’s bright spot.
Single-family housing starts are expected to rise 27 percent this
year and multifamily starts should rise near 30 percent. The
rebound in single-family construction comes from severely
depressed levels and will provide only a modest direct boost to
overall growth. Homebuilding has considerable knock-on effects,
however, and gains in single-family starts will clearly help
retailers, financial services, building products manufacturers and
commercial development.
Government spending is still

VIDEO: Monthly Economic Outlook - January 2013

Housing Data December 2012

Given all of the immediate unknowns, the economic recovery will lean even more heavily on one area of the economy that looks certain to improve in 2013: residential construction. Unlike many other sectors, the bulk of reports dealing with home sales, housing prices and residential construction suggests that the housing recovery was largely unscathed by the fiscal drama. Housing starts turned in its best three-month performance since the recession ended. Mortgage applications for the purchase of a home have also risen for four consecutive months, suggesting that buyers are coming back into the market and lessening the dependence on investors.