Popular Economics Weekly

We are seeing a boost in Q4 economic growth, in spite of “fiscal cliff” worries. Service sector growth has increased significantly, job formation is accelerating, and real estate is coming back to life, thanks mostly to more jobs.

The service sector is our largest business sector and its ISM’s non-manufacturing index rose five tenths to 54.7 with business activity over 60 for the first time since February. New orders are near 60 at 58.1 for a more than three point gain and the best reading since March. But employment is barely over 50, at 50.3 for a nearly five point monthly dip for the worst reading since July. Businesses are doing more with less as seen in this morning’s productivity report and in the details of this report. But still, the gain in activity and orders is good news and other indicators show jobs increasing.

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Graph: Econoday

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index registered 61.2 percent, which is 5.8 percentage points higher than the 55.4 percent reported in October, reflecting growth for the 40th consecutive month. The New Orders Index increased by 3.3 percentage points to 58.1 percent. And overall growth is accelerating.

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Graph: Econoday

Even more important was the upward revision in Q3 Gross Domestic Product growth to 2.7 percent, which will boost fourth quarter growth as well. Real GDP growth for the third quarter was revised up significantly because of a large inventory buildup, rather than increased sales.  But the Commerce Department raised the second estimate to 2.7 percent annualized, from the advance estimate of 2.0 and second quarter rate of 1.3 percent.

And we know that real estate activity has picked up, because housing prices are rising. The Case-Shiller Index has been rising since January. Improvement was really evident in the year-on-year rate which is up to plus 3.0 percent from plus 2.2 and plus 1.1 percent in the prior two months. Gains were in nearly all 20 cities, with Phoenix and San Diego prices rising the most.

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Graph: Econoday

And the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index in November was steady and firm with buying plans for homes a special positive. The consumer confidence index rose to a new recovery high of 73.7 in November from an upwardly revised 73.1 in October. Strength was centered in the expectations component which is up 1.1 points to 85.1.

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Graph: Econoday

Lastly, the most positive indicator of future sales is pending home sales up a very strong 5.2 percent even with the impact of Hurricane Sandy.  This is based on only a fractional decline in the Northeast, at least in the October report. The Midwest showed a very strong gain as did the South. The NAR’s October pending home sales index is at a five-year high.

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Graph: Econoday

Real estate has seen falling foreclosure inventories, as well. And Hurricane Sandy will give a big boost to reconstruction of much of the Atlantic seacoast, boosting construction employment. So 2013 could be a very good year for economic growth, if as I believe any fiscal cliff issues will be resolved sometime early next year.

Harlan Green © 2012