We are halfway through the first quarter of 2012. The big question in everyone’s mind is whether the economy continues to grow from here, or does it slow down like it did during the spring and summer of 2011? Remember, only a few months ago we were talking about the danger of a double dip recession. A stronger finish to the year ended that talk, but still many analysts have been predicting some sort of slowdown in 2012. What could prevent such a slowdown and keep the economy on pace to strengthen through 2012? We have already introduced the “big three” factors we will be watching. Not necessarily in order or priority, these factors are employment, housing and Europe. The numbers regarding employment are encouraging. First time unemployment claims last week hit the lowest level in nearly four years and employment growth was strong in January. The first set of January economic releases thus far have been mixed, however the data on housing starts and first time unemployment claims reported last week was very encouraging because of the importance of housing and jobs as two sectors of the “big three.”
If the economy keeps producing job growth, then home sales will keep rising and housing will become a positive factor with regard to economic growth in 2012. Economic growth is also the only factor which can pull Europe out of its crisis. All the austerity measures by themselves can’t pare down their deficits without growth. Therefore, the key to whether the economy will continue to grow from here is actually the economy itself. Consider a rock rolling down the hill. Last year the rock hit a bump and slowed down. However, the faster the rock rolls, the less likely bumps will be able to slow it down. A stronger economy is self-sustaining. We believe that the economy has reached an important juncture. If growth accelerates from here, it will be harder to stop the rock. The rock is not rolling downhill fast enough now to overcome all the obstacles, however we are not far from that happening and the first half of 2012 will be crucial in measuring the speed of the rock.
And thank you for making me Your Orange County Real Estate Connection.
Michael Caruso, Broker ABR ABRM CLHMS CRB CRS GREEN GRI
Past President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900