Make us your home page
Instagram

U.S. economy showing strength as spending cuts loom

Sales of new homes jumped nearly 16 percent in January. Home prices are also rising steadily, and banks are lending more.

Sales of new homes jumped nearly 16 percent in January. Home prices are also rising steadily, and banks are lending more.

WASHINGTON — Even with automatic spending cuts looming, the outlook for the U.S. economy brightened a bit Tuesday after reports showed that Americans are more confident and are buying more new homes.

Home prices are also rising steadily, and banks are lending more. Such improvements suggest that the economy is resilient enough to withstand the deep government cuts that will kick in Friday.

That's especially encouraging because uncertainty over the federal budget could persist for months.

"The stars are lining up for stronger private-sector growth this year," said Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Bank.

Sales of new homes jumped nearly 16 percent in January to their highest level in 4 1/2 years, adding momentum to the housing recovery. Consumer confidence rose in February after three months of declines. And home prices increased in December from the same month in 2011 by the largest amount in more than six years.

The upbeat economic news contributed to a rally on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 100 points.

Consumers still face numerous burdens. Among them is a sharp increase in gas prices. The national average for a gallon, $3.78, has surged 44 cents in a month.

And Social Security taxes rose 2 percentage points beginning Jan. 1. This year, the increase will cost a typical household that earns $50,000 about $1,000. Income taxes for the highest-earning Americans also rose.

Both factors could reduce overall spending.

On Friday, about $85 billion in automatic spending cuts are to kick in, and there's little sign that the White House and Congress will reach a budget deal to avoid them. The cuts will cause furloughs and temporary layoffs of government workers and contractors and sharply reduce spending on defense and domestic programs.

For about 2 million long-term unemployed, benefits now averaging $300 a week could shrink by about $30. Payments that subsidize clean energy, school construction and state and local public works projects could be cut. Low-income Americans seeking heating or housing aid might face longer waits.

Overall, the tax increases and spending cuts could shave up to 1.2 percentage points from growth this year, economists estimate. Alexander estimates that without the spending cuts or tax increases, the economy would expand more than 3 percent this year. Instead, he predicts growth of only 2 percent.

But growth should accelerate later this year as the effects of the government cutbacks ease, he and other economists say.

Payroll tax hike dents confidence

Florida's consumer confidence dipped slightly in February as the effect of higher payroll taxes hit workers, University of Florida researchers said Tuesday.

The monthly survey showed a one-point drop to a score of 74, better than the worst recessionary level but still shy of a score signifying a healthy economy.

Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, predicted consumer outlook will grow even gloomier in the next survey if Congress and President Barack Obama can't avoid huge federal spending cuts.

The index is benchmarked to 1966, which means a score of 100 reflects the level of consumer satisfaction that year.

Times staff

U.S. economy showing strength as spending cuts loom 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa's streetcar system looks to expand north through downtown

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The TECO Line Streetcar system that runs from Ybor City to the Channel District could be extended north through downtown all the way to Tampa Heights, according to the latest update of a $1.7 million study aimed at expanding the streetcar system.

    Riders take in the last few stops of the streetcar route in Ybor City during the tenth anniversary celebration of the TECO line streetcar system in Tampa in 2012. Now officials are looking for ways to expand the service north through downtown to Tampa Heights. [EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times]
  2. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  3. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe has been taking precautions in light of the Seminole Heights killings: keeping the lights on all night and having employees walk to their cars in groups.
  4. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  5. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]