MORE SIGNS RECESSION IS OVER
• New Home Construction Beats Expectations—The housing market
in January rose 6.3 percent for new construction. Also posting strong gains
were construction permits, an important forecast of the future economy.
Besides boosting construction jobs and income, a secondary effect is new
spending on appliances, furniture and other household items.
• Home Sales Set Record—The U.S. Commerce Department reported
sales for last year were 900,000 homes, well above 2000’s total of
877,000. Sales of existing homes in January 2002 set a record, posting an
annual rate exceeding 6 million units. The previous record was a 5.49 million
annual rate in August 2001. Also of note, prices for existing homes rose
• Small-Business Hiring Spikes—Two-thirds of job seekers went
to work at small businesses in the fourth quarter last year, compared with
just 55 percent in the second quarter. This spike in small business hiring
mirrors a pattern that occurred in 1991 as the country began pulling out
of its last recession. Small businesses often are considered to be the bellwether
of the economy because their size makes them more flexible during tough
times and historically they have led the country out of recessions.
• Businesses Begin Restocking—Small businesses are planning to
build up inventory after almost a year of reducing. The National Federation
of Independent Business says its January survey found that 21 percent of
its small business members plan to add inventory shortly as compared to
10 percent planning to reduce. In December, only one percent said they planned
to stock up.
‘SMART’ CARS JUST TWO YEARS AWAY
Hope you’re ready for smart cars coming in the next two years. According
to Kiplinger Letter, the new vehicles will add several safety and communications
devices to warn drivers about mechanical failure or when tire pressure is
Calls will be placed automatically from the car to emergency services and
even to repair shops. Voice-controlled computers on board will access e-mail
and the Web, and even navigational aids will respond to the driver’s