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Financial squeeze is on, all over the world

No doubt about it, the economic numbers are dismal. On Friday, new nationwide retail sales data showed the worst one-month drop ever recorded. The European Zone is officially in a recession. GM is teetering on the brink of financial ruin. And most indications are it's only going to get worse, at least in the short term. The Tampa Bay area isn't faring any better. Just in the past week, the St. Petersburg Times has reported how local foreclosures have skyrocketed, large-scale layoffs are up, and one of the area's biggest companies lost 54 percent of its stock price . . . in one day. And, in case you missed it, energy bills are about to spike as well. — Compiled by Graham Brink

Foreclosures

More than 7,550 Tampa Bay area properties were hit with a foreclosure notice in August, nearly double the rate of a year earlier. According to the firm RealtyTrac, the region ranked 16th worst for foreclosures in the United States. There were 3,216 and 1,650 foreclosures in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, respectively. Pinellas County had 2,301 filings and Hernando County 374.

Employment

Larger-scale layoffs are already up 40 percent in Florida, with seven weeks left in 2008. More than 26,000 Florida jobs were lost from Jan. 1 through Wednesday. That's at least 7,500 more jobs lost to large-scale layoffs and plant closings this year than in all of 2007. Is it any wonder that the area's unemployment rate is expected to climb through the 8 percent barrier in the new year?

Home values

The median home price in the Tampa Bay area continues to tumble. It hit $160,500 in September, down from the peak of $239,600 in June 2006. That's a decline of $79,100, or 33 percent from peak to today.

Energy costs

Progress Energy bills will increase 25 percent in January to pay for the rising cost of fuel and the early stages of its $17-billion nuclear plant. Tampa Electric bills will rise 12 percent to pay for fuel, with an additional increase possible in May.

Health care

Wellcare, a health insurer and one of the Tampa Bay area's largest companies, saw its stock plummet 54.2 percent on Thursday, after announcing that it had defaulted on some debt covenants. The stock recovered slightly on Friday and closed up almost 3 percent to $9.36 a share.

A sliver of hope?

If you are looking for an apartment, there should be more to choose from as the vacancy rate in the Tampa Bay area is expected to edge higher for the rest of the year. Developers are bringing on line 2,000 units, up from 1,000 units a year ago. Average asking rents are forecast to fall 0.2 percent to $826 per month.

And gas prices continue to fall. The average price for a gallon of regular gas in the Tampa Bay area was around $2.136 as of Friday, down almost $2 from the record high in July.

Sources: U.S. Commerce Department, Florida Association of Realtors, Marcus & Millichap, AAA.

Financial squeeze is on, all over the world 11/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2008 4:56pm]

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