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So, the US Housing Recession Is Contained?

Economics / US Housing Jun 27, 2007 - 03:46 PM GMT

By: Paul_L_Kasriel

Economics That's the conventional wisdom, but recent reports from retailers might suggest otherwise. Early in June, Bed Bath & Beyond issued a profit warning. BB&B's chief executive, Steven Temares, said: "Based upon what we have experienced and has been reported by others, the overall retailing environment, especially sales of merchandise related to the home , has been challenging" (emphasis added).


Last week, big-box retailers Best Buy and Circuit City reported softer-than-expected earnings and either revised lower 2008 earnings expectations (Best Buy) or withdrew any guidance (Circuit City). Both retailers noted slower sales of high-margin products such as flat-screen televisions. Today, West Marine, the country's largest retailer of boating supplies and accessories and a recipient of a large part of my paycheck, revised lower its 2007 sales and earnings. Peter Harris, West Marine's chief executive officer, stated: "As we move through the peak season, boating activity throughout the country has not shown signs of recovery, and revenues have been disappointing ... Broadly, sales of higher-priced discretionary items, such as electronics, have been weak, and in-store traffic levels, which we believe reflect boat usage, have been lower than expected."

To a large degree, all of these retailers sell consumer discretionary items rather than consumer staples. It is probably no coincidence that the consumer discretionary sub-index of the S&P 500 stock index has underperformed the total index by about 400 basis points this year. We can't help but wonder if the slowdown in nonfarm employment growth (see Chart 1), in large part due to the housing recession, and the decline in house prices (see Chart 2), which is reducing the amount of home equity available for withdrawal, are not beginning to slow the growth in consumer spending. Just a thought.

Chart 1

Chart 2

By Paul L. Kasriel
The Northern Trust Company
Economic Research Department - Daily Global Commentary

Copyright © 2007 Paul Kasriel
Paul joined the economic research unit of The Northern Trust Company in 1986 as Vice President and Economist, being named Senior Vice President and Director of Economic Research in 2000. His economic and interest rate forecasts are used both internally and by clients. The accuracy of the Economic Research Department's forecasts has consistently been highly-ranked in the Blue Chip survey of about 50 forecasters over the years. To that point, Paul received the prestigious 2006 Lawrence R. Klein Award for having the most accurate economic forecast among the Blue Chip survey participants for the years 2002 through 2005.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Northern Trust Company. The Northern Trust Company does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of information contained herein, such information is subject to change and is not intended to influence your investment decisions.

Paul L. Kasriel Archive

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