January 23, 2021

Fed Survey Documents Worsening Economy

A Federal Reserve survey said Wednesday that seven of the Fed’s 12 bank regions reported slower growth in June and early July compared with the spring. That’s a worse showing than in the previous survey.

Of the remaining five districts, four reported modest growth. A fifth, the Minneapolis district, said its economy was disrupted by bad weather and the shutdown of Minnesota’s state government.

The job market remained weak in most districts, the report said. Employers added few jobs in June, the government said earlier this month.

Droughts and severe flooding badly hampered seven districts with large agricultural sectors, the report said.

Manufacturing output rose overall. But many districts reported only “steady or slowing” growth, the Fed’s report said. Only two districts reported rising manufacturing activity. Companies in three districts — Philadelphia, Richmond and Atlanta — reported slower growth.

The weak picture of the national economy echoes recent data on hiring and manufacturing. Economists expect growth for the April-June quarter, which will be reported Friday, to fall below 2 percent, the second straight quarter of anemic expansion.

The report, known as the “Beige Book,” is based on anecdotal information gathered by officials at the 12 Fed regional banks. It is released eight times a year and provides an on-the-ground snapshot of the economy. Wednesday’s report covered the roughly seven weeks between May 27 and July 15.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b804dae24d6b458aab018c9a7336bcf2

U.S. Housing Prices Remain Weak

The private Standard Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, a closely watched measure of home prices, was up 1 percent compared with April, according to the broadest measure of data tracking 20 cities. Prices rose in 16 of the cities; they fell in Detroit, Las Vegas and Tampa and were unchanged in Phoenix.

The rise in May comes after the index edged up a fractional 0.6 percent in April, which marked the first time prices were higher in eight months.

But the trend in the 20-city composite index, while positive, was attributed to seasonal factors, and analysts were hesitant to read too much into one or two months of data. Demand is typically stronger in the spring, and continued weakness was evident in other barometers of housing health, such as contract cancellations, tightened lending standards and sales of new homes in June.

“We have now seen two consecutive months of generally improving prices; however, we might have a long way to go before we see a real recovery,” said David M. Blitzer, the chairman of the index committee at SP Indices. “Sustained increases in home prices over several months and better annual results need to be seen before we can confirm real estate market recovery,” he said in a statement released with the survey.

The data compared to the past several years showed that prices in Detroit, Las Vegas and Tampa reached new lows, down nearly 50 percent or more since the peaks of 2005-2006, the survey shows.

The overall index in May was down compared to May 2010, by 4.5 percent. That reflected a decline in prices in 19 of the 20 metropolitan areas when compared with the previous year.

Washington, D.C., was the area with the only annual price increase, while Minneapolis, where home prices were up 2.6 percent in May and 0.1 percent in April, had the biggest fall in prices from May last year, with an 11.7 percent drop.

Barbara T. Jandric, the president of Edina Realty in Minneapolis, said that the drop from last year reflected prices of many foreclosed homes. But in recent months the profile of houses being sold was starting to grow sounder, with fewer foreclosure sales as a percentage of the whole.

“We still have quite a few of those sales in our market, but we see that we maybe hit our peak,” she said.

In addition, the firm has noticed more buyers on the higher end of the market, she said.

“So for the first time in many, many years, in that segment of the market we are seeing shortages of listings,” she said. “For us, it is another glimmer of hope that the market is really slowly, slowly trying to come back.”

Analysts said that the spring uptick started in April and was likely to dwindle by October, when weak demand typically drags down home prices.

In addition, other variables in the economy are deflating hopes for a housing rebound, including a struggling jobs market in which the unemployment rate is at 9.2 percent and consumer confidence is at depressed levels, said Chris G. Christopher Jr., senior principal economist for IHS Global Insight.

“Things do not look very favorable on the housing front since the employment situation has taken a turn for the worse in May and June,” he said in a research note. “Going forward, the Case-Shiller indexes are likely to post increases during the home-buying season, and then turn down again.”

In another report, new-home sales were virtually unchanged in June, slipping 1 percent to an annual rate of 312,000, according the Department of Commerce. Analysts had predicted a 320,000 annualized level.

The number of new homes for sale declined nearly 2 percent to 164,000, and was 22 percent down compared with a year ago, the department said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=24e1a83fc84d01631d9f54bcab19a173

Bucks: How You Solved Your 401(k) Problem

In this weekend’s Your Money column, I tell the tale of Alan Wenker, who spent 10 years hunting for a better 401(k) for his fellow workers and himself.

He finally determined that mutual funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors were the best choice and used a local financial adviser in Minneapolis to help him transfer his 401(k) plan’s assets to their new home.

Others may have found different solutions, though. In the column, I mention retirement plan administrators like Employee Fiduciary, the Online 401(k) and Invest n Retire. I also suggest looking at AssetBuilder’s 401(k) plans and keeping an eye out for Schwab’s new plans that will only contain exchange-traded funds.

Have you helped fix your 401(k) or other, similar retirement plan? If so, please tell us a bit about the size of the plan, the problems it faced, what you did to solve them and who helped you do so.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=435148aa35a3e86ae0145e314a5334cf