Local Market Monitor (a National REIA preferred vendor) recently released their National Economic Outlook for February, 2018 where they share their thoughts on developments taking place in the U.S. economy.
National Economic Outlook – February 2018
February 14, 2018
By Ingo Winzer
Measured by Gross Domestic Product the economy grew 2.3 percent in 2017 – better then 2016, not as good as 2015. As usual, the spending of individuals was 80 percent of economic activity.
What GDP doesn’t tell us is how much risk is building up. We don’t have to look back very far – only ten years – to know that spending is just one part of the equation. If the spending that drives the economy is only funded by more and more debt – or by the illusion of wealth from higher and higher home prices – it can’t go on forever.
It would have been difficult to measure the risk created by the sub-prime mortgage boom as it happened, and in the same way it’s difficult to put our finger on what the next big risk to the economy might be, but here are a couple of prime suspects: consumer debt and a new real estate bubble.
We don’t know how much consumer debt is dangerous because we’re in uncharted territory – even adjusted for inflation and the growing population, it’s never been higher. Setting aside the $14 trillion of mortgage debt, other consumer debt in the shape of credit cards, car loans, home equity loans and student debt is close to $4 trillion – about $11,000 for every man, woman and child in America. It’s doubled since 2000 and it’s shooting higher as we speak. At what point will consumers no longer be able to borrow?
We’re all too familiar with the other potential risk, a real estate bubble, but that doesn’t mean we can do anything about it. So far, a boom is underway in only a couple of dozen markets – Denver, Miami, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Charleston among them – but a lot of people live there and how will they change their spending habits when home values drop ten percent?
Total jobs in January were up 1.5 percent over last year. Jobs were up 1.5 percent in manufacturing, 2.3 percent in business services, 1.9 percent in healthcare, and 2.2 percent at restaurants. Jobs were flat in retail and in government. Unemployment stayed at 4.1 percent.
About the Author: Ingo Winzer is President of Local Market Monitor, and has analyzed real estate markets for more than 20 years. His views on real estate markets are often quoted in the national press and in 2005, he warned that many housing markets were dangerously over-priced. Previously, Ingo was a founder and Executive Vice President of First Research, an industry research company that was acquired by Dun and Bradstreet in March 2007. He is a graduate of MIT and holds an MBA in Finance from Boston University. He resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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