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US account deficit widens, positive housing trends emerge

The United States account deficit widened in the fourth quarter, showing another area of economic weakness for the nation. Still, signs of a housing turnaround are emerging, analysts with Capital Economics say. As economists continue to track slow sales and a lagging real estate market, analysts also are studying international trade since fewer exports can suggest slower economic growth for the nation. The United States account deficit, which reflects the nation's strength in global trade, increased to $124.1 billion in 4Q of 2011, up from a revised $107.6 billion in the third quarter. The current account deficit is indicative of how well the U.S. is doing in global trade and currently shows the U.S. importing more than it exports. The deficit on goods alone increased to $186.3 billion in 4Q, compared to $180.9 billion in the third quarter. Goods exports fell to $380.4 billion, down from $382.7 billion. Still, analysts with Capital Economics are not threatened by recent trade figures, and they see signs of a housing recovery beginning to emerge. "The widening in the current account deficit to more than 3% of GDP at the end of last year is no big concern," Capital Economics wrote in a new report. "The U.S. has been running deficits of more than 3% of GDP for most of the past dozen years and yet its net external liabilities are still only a muted 17% of GDP." The research firm added in its report, "The United States account deficit widened in the fourth quarter, showing another area of economic weakness for the nation. But signs of a housing turnaround are starting to pop up." kpanchuk@housingwire.com

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