Gains Seen Despite Recession, Sept. 11
Cabinet & Vanity Sales
Existing-home sales dropped slightly in December of 2001, but still managed to set an all-time record for the year, hitting 5.25 million units, the National Association of Realtors reported last month. According to the Washington, DC-based NAR, the 2001 numbers were up 2.7% from the 5.11 million existing homes that were sold in 2000, and topped the previous record, set in 1999, of 5.21 million. The NAR also noted that price appreciation for homes remained strong, with the median price for an existing home rising 8.4% from a year earlier, to $151,400.
Buoyed by record shipments of refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges and microwave ovens, shipments of kitchen appliances rose a healthy 20.6% in December, helping to yield a new annual record of 42.14 million units, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) reported last month. The Washington, DC-based AHAM forecasted that appliance shipments are expected to decline somewhat this year, but noted that the industry is still expected to post the third-best year in its
history in 2002.
Recession Viewed Overall as Mild, Fading
Atlanta The economic recession that began in March of 2001 is likely to have ended by the time the second quarter of this year rolls around, "and it's going into the books as the mildest" in post-World War II history.
That was the thumbnail analysis of the housing market and U.S. economy issued at last month's International Builders Show here by National Association of Home Builders chief economist David Seiders.
According to Seiders, a variety of economic indicators including recent reports of positive GDP growth and continued solid levels of consumer confidence suggest that the economy "is in the process of changing from recession to recovery."
However, home builders and others associated with the building products market shouldn't notice too much improvement in the year ahead, he advised primarily because housing activity was barely affected by the downturn in the first place (see related story, above).
David Berson, chief economist for Fannie Mae, observed that increases in long-term mortgage rates should be only modest this year, and are expected to average 7.2% for 2002 compared to 6.78% in the final quarter of 2001.
Berson noted that, thanks to low interest rates and "healthy appreciation" in home prices, homeowners were able to refinance some $1.1 trillion of housing debt last year about $500 million of which was spent providing a significant stimulus to the lagging U.S. economy.