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The Skies Ahead

first_img Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago About Author: David Wharton Previous: The 5 Most Competitive Markets Next: State of the Foreclosure Market Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Related Articles Sign up for DS News Daily David Wharton, Managing Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 16 years’ experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at [email protected] The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Share Save The Skies Ahead Home / Daily Dose / The Skies Ahead Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago December 12, 2018 1,654 Views Housing Market 2018-12-12 David Whartoncenter_img Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago  Print This Post Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago in Daily Dose, Featured, News, Servicing The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Tagged with: Housing Market “It’s an interesting and dynamic time in the industry, for a whole host of reasons,” said Brian O’Reilly, President and Managing Director of The Collingwood Group. “You have market volatility to the likes of which you haven’t seen in some time. Refinances have largely gone away. The distressed-servicing market is substantially smaller than what it was only a few short years ago. The business is in a period of real change.” Many Americans are also facing significant economic pressure as consumer debt levels continue to climb alongside interest rates. There is good news in the mix, however. “The silver lining for millions of Americans is that their homes continue to be a source of wealththat can help them strengthen their balance sheets,” said Mike Rawls, EVP of Servicing, Mr. Cooper. “However, we need to help homeowners become smarter about managing their balance sheet to avoid a repeat of the last down cycle.”Echoing the topic of DS News’ August cover story, “The Big Short,” Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist, Lending Tree, said that 2018 was largely defined by the twin factors of decreasing affordability and insufficient housing inventory. Will that remain the case in 2019? “Affordability will remain a challenge as rates are likely to rise further and prices register more modest increases,” Kapfidze said. “Inventory has been improving, in part because affordability is weakening demand. Delinquencies are unlikely to increase as long as the labor market remainsrobust, which we expect to be the case. Low delinquencies will also be supported by home prices, which we expect to continue rising, though at a slower pace.”In early November, CoreLogic’s Home Price Index Report forecast that home-price growth was projected to slow 4.7 percent by September 2019. CoreLogic’s data also revealed that 40 percent of younger millennials said they wanted to purchase a home, but 73 percent cited affordability as a barrier to entry. Doug Duncan, SVP and Chief Economist,Fannie Mae, said that there could be some relief ahead in 2019. “One thing that you might notice retrospectively is that 2017 will be recognized as the year at which the pace of price appreciation in housing peaked,” Duncan said.TAXES AND TARIFFS, LEGISLATION, AND REGULATIONThe Trump administration passed its $1.4 trillion tax-reform bill in the final days of 2017. While true perspective on the long-term impact of that bill is likely still months or years down the line, it nevertheless contained severalprovisions that are already touching some corners of the market, including limits on property-tax deductions and tax-break stays for homesellers. “The changes to federal tax law haven’t resulted in a middle-class wave of homebuying activity,” said Rick Sharga, EVP, Carrington.Mortgage Holdings, LLC. “Anecdotally, it appears that the tax reform may have slowed down activity at the $1 million-plus level in high-cost/high-tax states. However, it’s hard to say exactly how much of the slowdown is due to the tax-law changes versus the lack of inventory and escalating prices and interest rates.”Kapfidze said that the clearest 2018 impact from the tax bill was with regard to the increase in interest rates and the sharp contraction in refinance originations. “The higher rates also lower affordability and thus demand, leading to the slowdown in home sales and loss in momentum in home prices,” Kapfidze said. “The bill increases the profitability on the bottom line but its negative effects on industry revenues are much greater, and the bill, in sum, has been detrimental in its first year.”The past year also brought the word “tariff” back into the mainstream in a way it hadn’t been for some time, with President Trump implementing trade tariffs—or threatening to do so—against numerous countries. While tariff saber-rattling continues between the U.S. and countries such as China, some of the already imposed tariffs have impacted housing to one degree or another.Kevin Brungardt, CEO, RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation, called the September tariffs “a double whammy on homebuilders” coming on the heels of earlier tariffs imposed on Canadian lumber.“The tariffs on raw goods act as a tax on both the homebuilder and homebuyer and that has the impact of further driving up home prices and discouraging builders from pursuing entry-level, affordable projects.”Brungardt said that, barring any change in policy, these issues should only be exacerbated in 2019, “when the Chinese tariffs (which the National Association of Homebuilders estimate includes at least $10 billion worth of housing related goods) increase from 20 percent to 25 percent.”Brungardt further points out that the industry doesn’t just have to worry about the immediate impact of the tariffs but also the potential blowback or retaliation from affected nations. He warned that a trade war could create “further instability at a time when mortgage volumes are down and companies are already facing a challenging road ahead in 2019.”Assuming trade tensions do escalate in 2019, Brungardt said to expect an uptick in mergers and acquisitions activity as companies see margins shrink.In May 2018, President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act into law, with the bill designed to evolve and streamline regulations put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. At the time, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement, “This step toward rightsizing regulation will allow local banks and credit unions to focus more on lending, in turn propelling economic growth and creating  jobs on Main Street and in our communities.”One of the primary changes was increasing the threshold for enhanced regulatory standards from $50 billion to $250 billion, a change designed to exempt some smaller and mid-sized banks from regulations that would still apply to the larger banking entities. The affected regulations pertain to capital and liquidity rules, risk-management standards, and stress-testing requirements, among other things. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot in the bill, but as with the tax bill, some elements of its larger impact on the industry will need to be evaluated from further down the road.During an interview earlier this year, Pam Perdue, EVP, Chief Regulatory Officer, Continuity, told DS News, “There are still many unanswered questions about how these rollbacks will work in practice.” “People have to modify their lending systems. They’ve got to modify the compliance-management systems inside their organizations. Whether those are manually done or done with technology, there’s a lot of work to do.”“If you throw a stone into a pond, the ripples don’t occur across the entire pond immediately— they move over time,” O’Reilly said. “That’s what’s happening in the regulatory arena. You have a change in mindset in the context of regulatory enforcement burdens, where the sentiment of the federal government seems to be less aggressive than has been the case under the previous administration. However, that is not translating yet into lesser regulatory costs.”“The law’s 50-odd mortgage-related provisions are a significant challenge for compliance teams to adjust to,” said RoundPoint’s Brungardt, “and some estimates show that average compliance costs nearly doubled between Q1 2018 and Q2 2018. We’ve seen some relief in Q3, and as companies adjust to the new reality, we hope to see some lasting improvement in the regulatory space, which will improve affordability.”INNOVATION AND PREPARATIONSeveral of the experts DS News spoke to suggested that this period of relative calm and stability is a perfect time for companies to innovate and prepare for any economic downturns that may eventually arrive.“Over the last few years, we’ve started to see more and more technologies introduced for home-loan originations, but innovation on the servicing side is still lacking,” Rawls said. He told DS News that servicers should work to ensure a better customer experience throughout every step of the homeownership journey.“Homeowners can benefit from more selfservice options and greater education to provide them with the information they need when they want it,” Rawls continued. “For our industry to be successful, we need to meet customers where they want to be met, whether it’s on the web or their mobile device, over the phone, or even face-toface through a web call.”“The biggest changes occurring in the mortgage industry are taking place in the technology space, with scores of new startups and entrepreneurs attacking many long-standing challenges,” Brungardt said. That being the case, what will the industry look like a decade down the road, and how should companies be working to build and prepare for that future now?“The customer will be in the driver’s seat in a way we’ve never been before,” Brungardt said. “This will mean more transparent access to every step of the mortgage process and a clear understanding of the timeline from application to close.”Brungardt anticipates this will mean a significant decrease in how long it takes to originate a loan, possibly shrinking the timeline from weeks or months to days or even hours. Brungardt predicts that the servicing side will also see dramatic improvements and optimizations thanks to advanced analytics and data to better anticipate and assist troubled borrowers in avoiding default or foreclosure.“Lenders/servicers need to be investing in technology now,” Brungardt said, “even though budgets are tight, to ensure they are ready for the next upswing in the market cycle.”O’Reilly spotlights the GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as leading examples of how to approach innovation in this era. “The GSEs are doing a great job at increasing their focus on developing tools and solutions that will help improve the customer experience and mitigate risks.”O’Reilly, who served as Director, Automated Underwriting Product and Risk Management Solutions at Fannie Mae from 2002–2007, said that the culture at the GSEs had changed significantly since that time, especially when it comes to their approach to innovation.“The GSEs during that period were criticized—and to some degree, rightly so—for what has been characterized as a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ approach to innovation,” O’Reilly said. “They would deliver a solution to the marketplace, but there was very little collaboration with the industry during the process of the development of that innovation.”O’Reilly says that the GSEs’ mindset has shifted significantly in recent years. “Both Fannie and Freddie are engaged in a strongly collaborative environment, and you’re seeing the benefits of that. When we talk to our clients—both large banks and nonbanks—they tell us it’s night and day in terms of the level of collaboration and this notion of test and learn and fail quickly. Fannie and Freddie are working to undertake large initiatives in bite-size chunks,” he said.That, O’Reilly said, is a lesson every servicer can take to heart and put into action. “As the rules of the road have become more well defined, we can start investing more in upgrades to the customer experience,” Rawls said. “The mortgage process can be complicated and intimidating, and now is the time to think of new ways to approach customer pain points and give them better tools, technology, and products for a more seamless, simpler experience.”GETTING YOUR BEARINGS FOR 2019A session conducted during the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Realtors Conference & Expo suggested that the five most critical issues facing the industry in 2019 included: 1) interest rates and the economy, 2) politics and political uncertainty, 3) housing affordability, 4) generational change/ demographics, and 5) e-commerce and logistics.“Mortgage is cyclical,” said Beth Northrop-Day, VP and Assistant General Counsel, US Bank. “We’re in a phase right now where companies are still originating, homebuying is occurring, and people are successfully paying their mortgages—all fantastic things. If I were to hazard a guess, I suspect that by mid to late 2019, or perhaps early 2020, we’ll start to see some changes. As an industry, we’ve made so many incredible changes—we are proactive and are working hand-in-hand with borrowers, investors, and regulators.”Looking back at the industry’s past decade of crisis and recovery, Kim Greaves, EVP, Citizens Bank, told DS News, that most of the “bad players” who precipitated that crises are no longer in the mix, and the industry as a whole is much better prepared for any future downturns than they were before the last one. “However, we will never take our eye off collections, loss mitigation, and default,” Greaves said. ”That must always remain a strong core competency.”Scott Brinkley, CEO, a360, Inc., said, “Interest rates are rising, and consumer debts are at an all-time high. On the other side of the coin, the economy overall is very healthy. Employment is low. Home-price values are appreciating year-over-year. We have some conflicting data points, but we think that 2018 is going to be a bottoming year for delinquencies.”If delinquencies do take an upward turn in 2019, however, what would that look like assuming there is no larger precipitating event such as another housing bubble or financial crisis?“We don’t anticipate anything broad-based,” Brinkley said. “It will all be tied to some major microeconomic event like a recession. Unless that happens, you will not see any material uptake in volume, but you will see a natural increase in delinquencies because the housing market is growing.”Sharga said that “the consensus among most economists is that the U.S. is likely to enter a mild recession in late 2019 or early 2020. If that’s the case, we’d be likely to see an increase in delinquency rates about six months after the recession starts, and foreclosure activity nine to 12 months later.”Even though he doesn’t see a recession in the near future, Fannie Mae’s Doug Duncan suggests an economic slowdown is coming.“We expect economic growth to slow in 2019, and we expect that the Fed will tighten at least a couple of times during 2019,” Duncan said. “Interest rates are unlikely to fall but, depending on the pace to which the economy slows, the Fed may or may not achieve its current dot plot, which suggests four increases next year.”Duncan added that Fannie Mae is forecasting only two interest-rate hikes in 2019, owing to an anticipated economic slowdown.The results of the midterm elections will also help shape the industry’s path going forward, but O’Reilly cautioned that even if Republicans are able to continue advancing an agenda that focuseson streamlining and scaling back regulations, the industry might still encounter unexpected complications—a case of “be careful what you wish for.”If the federal government continues to scale back on the regulatory front but the states begin to move in the opposite direction, O’Reilly warned that “instead of one regulator with a heavy hand, you could have many, all applying rules in different ways, which would then cause risk-management and compliance costs to skyrocket.”As for where home prices are headed in 2019, Duncan says that you can already see some of the trendlines forming. “In every market, the high-end component has seen increased inventory, longer days on the market for existing homes, and slowdowns in prices. In some of those markets, you may see declines in prices if the rate rises increase, and in some cases, because of the high cost of housing, some businesses are moving jobs out of those markets.”Duncan added that some of these markets are also beginning to feel the bite of limitations on the deductibility of state and local taxes. In some markets, this could lead to price declines.On the lower end of those markets, however, demand and price appreciation remain strong, so average price appreciation across all the markets is expected to remain positive nationally for the next few years.“Then, depending on what happens with the economic activity and the Fed tightening, that pace of price appreciation may go negative in 2021 or 2022,” Duncan said. “However, there’s a lot of things that could happen between now and then.”“The slowdown in housing, and particularly home prices, is the best thing that could have happened, and hopefully it continues in 2019,” Kapfidze said. “When we look at previous housing cycles, continued acceleration in home sales and prices would have to come at the cost of increasing leverage—this is how we got in trouble before.”“For 2019, servicers should continue to refine their organizations, controls, cost structures, and management and staff structures,” Greaves said. “We believe the trend of consolidation will continue, with some smaller companies going out of business, more servicing on the market, and real opportunities for the players that are positioned correctly. The companies that will benefit will be the ones that have their houses in order.” Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Subscribelast_img read more

Seeds of growth

first_imgThere’s nothing quite like a recession to throw a spanner in the works or, more accurately, a bug in the Powerpoint chart of a marketer’s forecast. Two years ago, it was all about healthier breads. The white bread sector had been toppled from its dominant position in the market, falling behind other bread categories in 2006 on expenditure, prompted by the growth in brown, wholegrain and seeded breads. Last year, it clawed back its top position to become the largest sector amid a backdrop of heavy price promotion and conservative shopping patterns. So is the future all white?”No,” says the latest Key Note Bread & Baker Report (March 2010). It states: “The decline in fortunes of the traditional white bread sector in comparison with brown bread is apparent in the fact that penetration of the former fell from 79.4% in 2006 to 77.7% in 2009, while during the same period, the proportion of adults who said they ate brown bread (including Granary and wholemeal varieties) rose from 65.1% to 69.1%. The proportion of consumers who eat white bread fell from 68.3% to 66.8% between 2008 and 2009, and there have also been slight decreases in the percentage who say they eat wholemeal bread and bread in the ’other types’ category. Brown and granary breads have both seen very small increases in penetration.”Of course, the market is not always clear-cut, with the emergence of the ’healthier white’ segment straddling the divide. This represents the big brands’ continued focus on marketing healthier breads to people who are shy of bread with bits. Much activity over the last two years has been on wholegrain marketing, but problems in the perception of the healthiness of bread run deeper, from misconceptions about weight gain to recent scares about salt levels.The industry needs to nail down some key health messages, such as the benefits of whole grains, but has been hampered by the absence of wholegrain health claims approval from Europe, which has in turn hindered the development of initiatives such as the Whole Grain Stamp. This was originally launched in the US and is now being used on 3,400 products in 20 countries.With the US leading the way on whole grain marketing, Cynthia Harriman, director of the Whole Grains Council, which pioneered the Whole Grain Stamp, says there are three key trends emerging, all of which have one thing in common: they address the belief that whole grains should be for everyone. These include promoting the use of whole white wheat, which makes whole grains available to people accustomed to the milder taste of refined wheat; gluten-free grains, which make whole grains available to people with coeliac disease; and the emerging trend Stateside for sprouted or malted grains, which addresses both taste and digestive health.”2010 may well be the year that sprouted whole grains known as malted grains in the UK become more widely known and used,” says Harriman. “We’re seeing the trend continue strongly this year. I think you’ll see the baking community looking into sprouted grains as ingredients, and there will be a growing awareness that there are two approaches to sprouting: the wet approach and the dry approach. In both cases, the grains are encouraged to germinate slightly through controlled temperature and moisture. But then the path diverges.”Suppliers like German firm Kampffmeyer have also launched wholemeal flours, based on white wheat, that contain none of the bitter-tasting phenolic substances that appear in red wheat breads, and are therefore suitable for fine bakery goods. Its wholegrain Snow Wheat, for example, is being promoted for the manufacture of baked goods that have the appearance and taste of white flour products, but the same nutritional value as common wholemeal products.Meanwhile, Harriman is also predicting that more attention will be paid to traditional fermenting processes for grains in the near future. “Over history, food historians believed that most grains were eaten sprouted or fermented and, as we learn the taste and health advantages of these methods of traditional processing, clever manufacturers will find ways to adapt the old ways to new products,” she says.While such developments may spark some new product development ideas, Therese Coleman, a nutritionist working on behalf of The Home Grown Cereals Authority, points out an opportunity for using oats in bread, following “an EFSA health claim [that] has been approved for oats, specifically the beta-glucan fraction, which is very similar to the previous JHCI claim approved in the UK”.Following this, Kingsmill wasted little time in launching Oatilicious a loaf baked with wholegrain oats and wheat flour that contains no bits for a smooth texture, which sits in the healthier white segment. “Oat-led products, combining the goodness of wholegrain oats with great taste, are already popular in other categories but Kingsmill Oatilicious is the first branded loaf of its kind in the bread category,” explains Kingsmill’s marketing controller Michael Harris.Elsewhere, seeded products continue to prove popular, with the likes of Rank Hovis making a big impact on the category with its successful Multiseed mix, introduced in 2009. “Breads that combine perceived healthier ingredients and real flavour are increasingly popular,” says Jenny Green, marketing executive at bread supplier Bakehouse. “A growth area for bread is seeded bread. In-store bakery seeded breads are now worth £79.6m, make up £13.9% of the category and are growing at an impressive 9% ahead of the category (IRI Total Retailers w/e 20-02-10).”Miller ADM’s marketing manager Melanie Somerville adds that its Castleford Stoneground, Miller’s Gold and Allison Traditional Stoneground wholegrain flours remain popular. “While white flour continues to dominate the market, there is growing awareness among consumers of the benefits of low-glycaemic index (GI) wholegrain in maintaining a healthy digestive system and helping to prevent diabetes by controlling weight and blood sugar levels,” she says.Seeded breads have also done well in foodservice, says Ian Toal, MD of bakery foodservice giant Delice de France, but health has fallen behind value as a driver of growth. “We’re seeing a lot more uplift in products with inclusions products that people perceive to be healthier, with nuts and flakes,” he says. “Has health been the number one driving force? I wouldn’t say it has. We have tried to cover every angle, from gluten-free to low salt, but the over-riding thing that people have wanted in the last year is value for money a fact that more people in the industry need to wake up to, and I think they are.”Away from the focus on seeded and wholegrain products, major players in the speciality breads sector have pursued a strategy of moving into the lighter, healthy choices market. David Lawrence, joint-MD of Honeytop, which supplies naans, tortillas, pancakes and crumpets, has seen its Weight Watchers licence enjoy big growth. “A lot of bread products have fats and oils, so we’ve looked at removing fats; we’ve angled into a market where those people who are watching their weight can enjoy something that can be a luxury, such as a naan, but that is also a healthier option.”Honeytop is working towards 2012 Food Standards Agency (FSA) salt targets, following the FSA’s awareness campaign of salt levels in bread, which damaged the perception of bread’s health credentials last year. Rather than seeing this as a negative, George Marriage, managing director of flour miller W&H Marriage & Sons, which is one of the few millers to produce tradi-tional stoneground wholemeal flours, milled on horizontal French burr stones, sees salt reduction as a healthy bread marketing opportunity.”Unlike many food products, salt content is the only nutritional issue that can really be levelled against bread,” he says. “We’d therefore encourage bakers to see producing lower-salt bread as a positive move. By taking action and working to achieve this, they can also promote the healthiness of their bread to their customers and potential customers. Craft bakers are in a strong position to combat negative health perceptions of bread primarily as bakery staff have direct contact with their customers within the shop so can take the opportunity to talk to them. Bakeries can also use point-of-sale to raise consumer awareness about the healthiness of bread.”Getting the message acrossSo where next for marketing the healthiness of breads? One angle could be to reinforce toast’s position as a healthy snack. The surprising results of a major new report, from YouGov SixthSense, signal a switch in people’s snacking habits towards healthier choices, showing more people now snack on fruit between meals in the UK (55%) than biscuits (45%), or crisps and bagged snacks (43%) or chocolate (41%). The figure for fruit was even higher for kids (69%), suggesting the healthier eating trend will continue for another generation.So how does this affect bread? Intriguingly, research director James McCoy notes that while toast is clearly not a ready-to-eat product, it is eaten as a snack between meals by 27% of adults and 41% of children, and is perhaps surprisingly often viewed as being a healthy option.”Toast is often seen as a breakfast product, but in the qualitative research we did, people were saying, ’Of course we snack on toast’. Actually, people do view it as healthy,” he says. “There is not just a growing awareness but a propensity to choose healthier snacks over traditional snacks, and toast potentially fits into that category. People are very much balancing their snacking. Toast’s prominence in the snacking arena could point towards opportunities in the catering market.” Healthy bread product news l Bakehouse will soon be adding a multiseed variety to its Rusticata range. Also, Bakehouse is offering its Premium Seeded Batard as a full-flavoured bread made with sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, millet and linseeds, then rolled in more sesame seeds that toast during baking for a nutty taste. Bakehouse’s French Speciality breads come in smaller case sizes of 8-14 loaves. l CSM has developed a Soft Roll concentrate that meets the Food Standards Agency’s 2010 sodium targets of 1g salt per 100g of baked product, under the Arkady brand. It is available in paste or powder format for making soft rolls, baps and finger rolls. Roll dough can be finished using Arkady’s Holstein Multiseed blend of seeds and flaked cereals, or the mix can be worked into the dough.l Community Foods has launched Bakelock Soaked Fruits, inspired by a practice used in French craft bakeries of soaking dried fruits before adding them to the dough. This ensures that fruits in breads are plump, moist and juicy after baking, the fruit doesn’t dry out the dough, it offers extended shelf-life, and you can add flavour to the fruits, such as cinnamon and apple. It is available for both craft and industrial applications. The whole world l The EU-funded Healthgrain project is investigating ways in which to communicate the health benefits of grain, and the project is coming to its five-year conclusion in May. To obtain a list of all the published reports go to: www.healthgrain.org/pub/publications.phpl The Whole Grains Council in the US predicts a big growth in sprouted grains in 2010, and has worked to establish an agreed definition for them. For studies see: http://tinyurl.com/yc7bbkdl Australia has seen the launch of an interesting Go Grains initiative, including a ’4+ serves a day’ logo, in lieu of official portion guidance on wholegrains in the country. See: www.gograins.com.aul In Germany, Kampffmeyer has helped to fund the set-up of a bilingual German/English site with information about wholegrains. For information, go to:www.vollkorn.info/index2.php?lang=enlast_img read more

Second Quarter GDP: Better than anticipated

first_imgIn a clear sign that the recession may be easing, commercial and industrial investment in the second quarter fell 8.9 percent, according to the July 31 gross domestic product (GDP) report by the U.S. Department of Commerce. This represents a stark improvement over the first quarter nonresidential construction decline of 39 percent.Compared to the change in GDP last quarter, most of the components within the category of fixed investment fell, but by a moderate degree. Among various components within the nation’s GDP, the biggest decline was in residential construction which fell by 29.3 percent. Investment in equipment and software was down by 9 percent during the quarter, after having fallen 36.4 percent the previous quarter.”Based on ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI), infrastructure-related construction is set to accelerate significantly over the next several months.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban BasuOverall, consumer spending fell by 1.2 percent, lead by a 7.1 percent decline in consumption of durable goods. Consumption of services was up by 0.1 percent after having fallen 0.3 percent. Exports were down, but to a much lesser degree than the estimated 7 percent, while imports were down by 15.1 percent. The decline in the nation’s imports compared to exports indicates a contraction of the trade deficit. Government spending was up 5.6 percent; this important component contributed greatly to the softening in the decline of GDP growth.In all, real gross domestic product fell 1 percent during the second quarter of 2009 following a decline of 6.4 percent during the previous quarter. The second quarter of 2009 marks the fourth consecutive quarterly decline of GDP.What This Means“As predicted, the pace at which the U.S. economy is shrinking slowed significantly during the second quarter of 2009. It is important to note, however, that construction activities were not found to be an important factor in this improvement,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “The moderation in the economic downturn was largely attributable to other factors, including a shrinking trade deficit and government spending.“Many nonresidential construction activities continue to be in sharp decline. This is particularly true within the commercial construction segments of the industry, which include construction related to office building, retail space, hotel, and other sectors particularly susceptible to business cycles,” said Basu.“However, certain nonresidential construction activities will help bring the economy out of recession over the next several months,” said Basu. “Based on ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI), infrastructure-related construction is set to accelerate significantly over the next several months.”Source: Associated Builders & Contractors. July 31, 2009last_img read more

In Search of “The Zone”

first_imgDanny Hart at the WorldsIn my sophomore year of school at Warren Wilson College, I took a Sports Psychology class with Dr. Bob Swoap.  I found the class to be absolutely fascinating, and the material definitely left a lasting impression, helping me immensely in how I viewed competition.Dr. Swoap got in touch with me recently, and I was honored and excited to be invited back to speak from the opposite side of the classroom about my experiences with whitewater kayaking and how they related to real life and tapping your potential in any pursuit.  As the day approached, I was admittedly a bit hesitant about getting in front of the class.  I knew that it was a Freshman Seminar, and I dreaded the possibility of blank stares and awkward silences following my attempts to engage them.What I was met with, however, was completely the opposite!  These young adults came from all walks of life… amongst them were writers, competitive mountain bikers, varsity basketball players, musicians, and everything in between.  They were amazing, and the hour and a half literally flew by before I knew it.  I walked back to my car that day thinking that Dr. Swoap was a pretty lucky guy to be able to hang out with people like that as his job.Our discussion ran the gamut in the field of Sports Psychology and elsewhere, but one thing that we focused on was the search for that feeling of flow in which everything seems effortless and perfect.  Often referred to as “the zone,” this state of mind is as incredible as it is elusive.  It is something that you can recognize when you see it, and something that feels incredible when you are experiencing it.I shared with the class one of the most poignant representations of an athlete in the zone that I have ever seen.  To preface this video, Danny is a young biker on the scene, competing in the biggest race of the season, on the steepest, gnarliest course, and in the worst possible conditions!  Watch him rise to the occasion…Before I had time to flash my own slide up on the screen to frame how I approach my search for the zone, the students had already listed off most of my strategies plus some even better ones!  Everyone has a different way of doing this, but I focus on a couple of things:1)   WORK HARD.  I believe that the biggest advantage in the world is knowing that you are prepared for an event.  All sports carry with them a huge amount of mental challenge as well, but the physical foundation needs to be there.2)   Self-Affirmation Statements.  There is a huge difference between athletes who can persevere through hardships/unexpected incidents and continue to perform well, and those who can’t.  These statements are things that you say to yourself when you don’t think you can go any further, or you feel things unraveling.  Repetition of a few simple words or a phrase can center you and bring you back to what you know you are capable of.  One of my favorites is “strong, fast, focused.”3)   Metronome Analogy.  I have always loved music.  It gives me motivation and provides a soundtrack to my life.  I compare the physiological functions of my body to a musical metronome… pulse, breath, paddle strokes, etc.  I have my best races when I tune into that metronome and pace myself perfectly based on what I know about the race course.  Too rushed or too lax and I will not compete to my potential.These are a few of the tricks that help me, but once you’ve done all of the preparation you can possibly do and have gotten yourself into that optimal state of mind, it’s time to put your head down and give ‘er hell!Nobody ever said it was going to be easy…(Author’s note: After all the great insights offered up by the class, I’m very interested to know what our readers find is most helpful to achieve that optimal mental zone?  Feel free to comment here or on the BRO Facebook Page.)last_img read more