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Economic Outlook from Carolina

A second dispatch from the ICSC Carolinas Idea Exchange.

During discussion of current economic trends, Mark Vitner, director and senior economist with Wachovia Bank, said consumer spending will maintain a healthy pace in 2007, in spite of a declining savings rate. The main factors Vitner looks at after consumer spending are after-tax income levels and employment growth. The "savings rate has absolutely nothing to do with it," he says.

Vitner predicts consumer spending will grow by 3.1 percent in 2007, compared with 3.2 percent in 2006. GDP growth will be approximately 2.6 percent compared with 3.4 percent last year.

Vitner also singled out North Carolina, Arizona, Texas and Georgia as the states that will benefit from population growth. They have not previously enjoyed a housing boom as strong as in some other parts of the country and their affordability now makes them very attractive to newcomers. Ivy Greaner, of Ram Real Estate, a regional firm, compares North Carolina with South Florida, where housing prices have risen at astronomical rates in the past few years. "In North Carolina, it's slow and steady growth," she says. "Housing is still affordable, traffic is not an issue and all the major cities have enough critical mass that they [are still attractive]."

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