HOW TO SPOT THE END
There are several economic events that would mark the end of the recession, which some say has already happened. The Wall Street Journal says look for:
• Surge in business investment especially in technology.
• Stronger sales of high-end homes.
• Stores and dealers complaining that inventories are too low.
• Companies forecasting better profits.
A recent Journal survey of 54 economic forecasters found two-thirds expecting the economy to grow in the first quarter of 2002, and almost all expect it will grow in the second quarter.
GOOD NEWS ON THE HOME FRONT
Sales of existing homes in 2001 helped propel sales for all housing to a record 5.25 million, bettering the previous record of 5.2 million in 1999. One big boost to sales was the 30-year mortgage rate of 6.9 percent last year, second lowest on record. The median price for an existing home rose 8.4 percent to $151,400.
In other housing notes, second-home ownership is projected to almost double from the 5.5 million in 1990 to 9.8 million in 2010. Factors in the increase include rise in affluent, childless households and aging of baby boomers.
IRS CONSIDERS 50,000 AUDITS TO MONITOR
To measure the extent of taxpayer cheating, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is considering auditing 50,000 individual income tax returns selected randomly. The last major compliance study was done in 1988, and IRS now wants better audit targets to combat cheating.
A recent Roper survey finds an increase in number of Americans who say cheating a little is acceptable. However the survey showed that three out of four still object to any cheating at all.
ONLINE RETAILING: NO DOWNTURN HERE
What recession, online retailers ask? In a holiday season that was almost bleak for many, online retail sales were the bright spot, rising 72 percent to $11 billion in the fourth quarter 2001 from a year earlier at America Online.
The growth reflects more than simply an increase in AOL members, whose number was up 17 percent last year.