On the Home Front:
Good News . . .
Almost two of three Americans now own their homes. U.S. home ownership in the third quarter of 1996 is reported to have soared to 66.3 million, a 15-year record. One reason for the rise is a decrease in down payment requirements. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department says housing starts for August reached its highest level in 2 1/2 years. From July to August, new home and apartment building starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million. Leading the surge were single-family homes jumping 8.3 percent.
. . . and Bad News
The overall sale of new and used homes this year is forecast at 4.65 million, off a bit from last year's 4.75 million. About 50,000 fewer homes will be built, and in most parts of the country home prices will rise faster than inflation.
Women-run Businesses Prosper
Women entrepreneurs now enjoy almost as much access as men to traditional sources of capital for their business ventures, according to a recent study by the National Foundation of Women Business Owners. Meanwhile, other statistics show women scoring high in entrepreneurial success: a 75 percent success rate three years after a startup, 50 percent of all newly created jobs are by entrepreneurial women, and women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.
Business Can't Stand Still
Increasing competition is changing the way companies do business. According to a survey for National Small Business United, America's small business owners know that if they maintain their successful strategies, someone will come along and do it better. Almost nine of 10 owners -- particularly retailers -- say they are fixing problems before they are broken. Among the improvements made last year: upgrading computer systems -- 44 percent developing new products and services -- 39 percent improving the quality of products and services -- 39 percent opening new stores or branches -- 6 percent expanding through acquisition -- 4 percent