Strong earnings from Proctor and Gamble and Starbucks this past week saw the S&P 500 Index close above 1500 for the first time since the start of the Recession back in 2007. For the week, the S&P 500 closed up 16.98, or 1.1 percent. The Dow gained an impressive 246.28 or 1.8 percent, closing Friday at 13,895.98. More corporate earnings are on the way this week. If last week was any indicator, we can expect more huge profit reporting. Employers are laying off fewer workers, a trend that normally suggests hiring is picking up, according to an article in last week’s S.A. Express News. The article continued to state that the January jobs report next week will show whether that’s really what’s happening or whether employers are waiting for the economy to strengthen further. The number of people seeking unemployment aid had reached a five year low this past week. Some employers, such as healthcare companies, restaurants, and retailers are hiring steadily. December’s U.S. unemployment rate was 7.8%. Remember, 70 percent of our economy depends on consumer spending. Without jobs, consumers will not spend. The silver lining is that employers are beginning to get their feet wet when it comes to hiring. Hiring of temp employees is up 25 percent which in turn usually spells future placement of permanent jobs to come. Proven in December, consumers didn’t let us down as retail sales rose slightly compared to last year. So, the economic wheel is turning ever so gradually in a positive direction for the start of 2013.
Real Estate, Mortgage Industry, and Other Economic News
Congratulations to our sister city-Austin for achieving the number 1 spot on Forbes list of fastest growing cities in America. Forbes gathered its growth data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Houston came in 2nd, Dallas 3rd, and San Antonio came in a respectable 9th place. What is not really astounding but, at least should be mentioned, is that Texas cities dominated the list. As Texans, we reserve the right to brag and rightly so. Our state’s economy outshines the rest of the nation. Our healthcare and hospitals are doing well. We are growing in almost every employment sector. The oil and gas industry is a no-brainer for our economy. Our Technology sector is making wonderful headway, not to mention our wonderful tourist industry, which is gearing up for the summer. Texas remains the state folks are coming to for jobs. With jobs, folks are needing to buy homes too.
The National Association of Realtors forecast 2013 to a “return to normalcy.” Healthy price appreciation, an increase in both existing and new home sales, and drying up of shadow inventory are in the forecast. NAR expects the U.S. GDP to grow from 2012’s 2.1% to 2.3% in 2013. The best is yet to come in 2014, as GDP is expected to be at 3%. Existing home sales are expected to increase from 2012’s (per millions) 4.64 to 5.095 in 2013 and 5.30 by 2014. Yes, these are strictly forecasts but I really do think these numbers are conservative too. I would like to thank Brad Mullen for sharing this information with me from the Jan/Feb 2013 Realtor Magazine.
After a fairly flat 2011, the San Antonio area’s housing market had a healthy showing in 2012 with the improvement to continue through this year, according to SABOR (San Antonio Board of Realtors) in an article this past week in the S.A. Express News. More than 19,900 homes sold in the San Antonio area last year, a 10.5 percent jump from 2011. The article also stated that the local market benefited from stronger consumer confidence, low mortgage rates, job growth, and affordable housing prices, SABOR Chairman Steven Gragg said. Mr. Gragg also said, “San Antonio is growing so much in every direction. Sales are strong in all areas.” He expects the market to remain steady for the year. Again, I think that is being conservative.
Mike Starks with Re/Max Town and Country in Fredericksburg and a member of the newly renamed Central Hill Country Board of Realtors (previously the Gillespie County Board of Realtors) in Fredericksburg provided the following data on their MLS. 2012 “dollars sold” were up 14.8% from 2011 and up 23.1% over 2010. Almost 40 more homes were sold in 2012 compared to 2011 as well. All of these are very upbeat numbers for the area. Of course, the realtors I have been in contact with during my office visits in San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, including Blanco, Bandera, Comal, Gillespie, and Kerr Counties, are all hearing their phones ringing more and, in turn, setting more appointments. Think about this - the Spring selling season hasn’t even arrived yet.
Speaking of the CHCBOR, John Hudson with the National Association of Mortgage Professionals will be the guest speaker at their next luncheon/meeting-Feb 6th. Mr. Hudson is going to talk about the current changes to the mortgage environment, including the regs just passed down from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Please let me know if you would like to attend, as space is limited.
I was very privileged to be a part of a recent MCE VA Boot Camp for Realtors class held at First American Title at their office in San Antonio (1604 and Huebner). Thanks to Ashley Amato-Zimmerman and staff for hosting the event. Those who attended should be congratulated as well for taking time out of their busy schedules to learn how they can better serve our military veterans. A special “thank you” to our (SWBC Mortgage) very own Tamara Tapman for facilitating the class. Recent VA MCE classes have also been held in Fredericksburg during the CHCBOR luncheon and in Boerne at the Boerne Chamber of Commerce sponsored by Mike Lang and staff from Kendall County Count Abstract. The NEW Century 21 The Hills Realty (Toni Manchester, broker) in Kerrville hosted the event at their brand new location on Sidney Baker just last week. It goes without saying that all these folks, sponsors and all who participated, should receive a pat on the back for helping to make our military veterans’ real estate purchase transactions a smooth process. For more information about having one of these classes at your office, please feel free to contact me.
Economic Data due this week: More Corporate earnings reports this week. Monday: Durable Goods Orders=electronics, computers, tv’s, etc. Monday: Pending Home Sales. Tuesday: Case/Shiller Home Price Index. Tuesday: Consumer Confidence. Wednesday: GDP. Wednesday: FOMC announcement of current economic condition and rate movement. Thursday: Weekly Jobless Claims. Thursday: Chicago PMI=A manufacturing index. Thursday: Consumer Spending. Friday: Unemployment Rate for January. Friday: UMich Consumer Sentiment. Friday: Construction Spending. Friday: ISM Report.
(This article is for informational purposes only. Do not use it as financial advice. Information gathered for this article is from but, not limited to the Wall Street Journal, S.A. Express News, Boerne’s Hill Country Weekly, Austin Business Journal, S. A. Business Journal, Blanco County News, NMBA. The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of SWBC or any of their affiliates. For questions/comments contact Tony Stevenson at1.800.460.6990 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)