Monday, January 29, 2018 / by Sean Zanganeh
Now it's official. The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board himself has said it publicly that it looks like the recession is over.
Here comes the recovery.
But there was a big footnote in Bernanke's speech on the economy last week in Washington: Don't look for a dramatic recovery.
It'll be more like a slow moving, plodding sort of improvement where the economy inches toward expansion. But there'll be no sudden, splashy return to economic boomtime anytime soon.
Bernanke's point about the end of the recession was underscored by a 2.7 percent jump in retail sales for the month of August, according to the Commerce Department.
That's an important indicator because the key to pumping up the economy again is to get consumers spending, and that appears to be happening. Not just for auto sales, which got a big boost in August from the government's "cash for clunkers" program, but also for other key categories, like food and clothing purchases, department store retail, entertainment and restaurant spending, sporting goods.
They were all up for the month, after having been mainly down for well over a year.
One reason for the pick-up in consumer spending: People feel more confident about the direction of the economy in the months ahead. They see the stock market up, so their retirement funds and 401 K plans are bouncing back.
They see home values stabilizing or growing in most areas, so their equity is beginning to increase again.
The one big negative -- and it's definitely a drag for housing -- is the unemployment rate, which Mr. Bernanke said won't be coming down fast, even with the end of the recession.
Nonetheless, the vast majority of Americans who do have jobs have seen their real wages rise this year, up five percent. That's the largest annual gain in fifty years.
All of this is feeding into the housing sector in key markets, such as southern California, where August sales were up 11 percent compared with the year before, according to MDA DataQuick. Even prices are rising slightly.
In the combined markets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, San Bernadino-Riverside and Ventura, the median price of homes sold gained 2.6 percent in August, which is very encouraging for one of the hardest-hit boom-to-bust areas of the country.
Meanwhile, the mortgage market continues to be exceptionally positive for housing sales and values: 30 year fixed rates averaged just above 5 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, and 15 year loans averaged 4.4 percent.
by Kenneth R. Harney
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