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Economic indicators that make you go 'hmmmmm'

A spec home is offered for sale in a housing development in Volo, Ill.

Two economic indicators came out Monday, and both were lackluster.  Pending home sales were down more than 5 percent in September, the biggest drop in three years. Production at the nation’s factories increased, but just barely.  The .01 percent gain is lower than the expected .05 percent. And business spending figures out Friday weren’t that great either.  

As analysts look for reasons to account for the shortfalls, some fingers are pointing blame at Capital Hill, attribuing the disappointing numbers to the uncertainty surrounding the government shutdown that was looming in September.

Ellen Haberle, an economist with Redfin real estate, says other factors were more important. “The slowdown in September was mostly related to changing market conditions and less related to the government shutdown,” she says, adding that rising mortgage rates and cost-conscious buyers played a bigger part in the monthly numbers.  

“It’s hard to say from one month to the next exactly how this is playing out,” says Don Sabbarese, an economist at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta, Georgia. He says the slower snapshot of industrial growth may have had something to do with the shutdown, but so did uncertainty over the healthcare law.  “There’s still a lot hanging over the heads of the manufacturing sector and the economy itself,” he says. 

Monday we got  part of the “before” shutdown picture in September.  October's numbers aren’t expected to be great.  Does that portend a potential for big growth come November? There’s still al lot of “uncertainty.”

About the author

Jim Burress is a reporter for WABE in Atlanta.
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