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Home builders report residential remodeling up

The residential remodeling market improved during the first quarter of 2009, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). The Q1 numbers rose to 34.5 from 25.5 in Q4 of 2008. Additionally, future expectations jumped to 30 from a historic low of 18.6 the previous quarter.

The RMI measures remodeler perceptions of market demand for current and future residential remodeling projects. “Remodelers are starting to receive more calls for bids and requests for proposals, although getting customers to sign for a job continues to remain a challenge,” said NAHB Remodelers Chairman Greg Miedema. “While the size of the jobs is smaller, remodelers are optimistic about this uptick in market activity.”

The index component covering major additions and alterations increased to 32.7 from 19.4 in the fourth quarter of 2008, while minor additions rose to 39.1 from 31.5. Maintenance and repair also climbed, to 30.4 from 23.6.

Economists say recession will be over by third quarter

A majority of economists, (more than 90 percent), believe the U.S. recession will end this year, according to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics. About 74 percent of those polled expect the recession to end in the third quarter.

While most of the economists believe the road to recovery will be “rocky,” almost all agree the recession is winding down. “While the overall tone remains soft, there are emerging signs that the economy is stabilizing,” noted NABE president Chris Varvares, head of Macroeconomic Advisers.

Conference Board: ‘Worst may be over'

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI), which measures the labor market in eight areas, saw a 0.2 percent increase in May, to 89.9. While the Board said the increase was “a small uptick,” the group noted it is the first real increase in 16 months.

“While it is too early to say that the ETI has bottomed, the moderation of the last two months is certainly a sign that the decline in job losses is real and signals that the worst is over,” said Gad Levanon, senior economist at The Conference Board.

Additionally, the Conference Board’s gauge of consumer confidence jumped to 54.9 in May from 40.8 in April, the highest increase in six years. According to the group, consumer confidence was expected to rise to 42.6.

“The 28-point jump in confidence over April and May is the biggest two-month rally since records began in 1967,” the Board noted. “The measure reached its lowest point ever in February, with a reading of 25.3.”

Pending home sales jump 6.7 percent

Fueled partly by low mortgage interest rates, pending home sales in April rose for the third consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors. The group’s Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed, rose 6.7 percent to 90.3 in April – 3.2 percent higher than April of last year.

Regionally, the Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast shot up 32.6 percent to 78.9 in April. In the Midwest the index rose 9.8 percent to 90.4. The index in the South slipped 0.2 percent to 93.0, but is still 3.5 percent higher than a year ago. In the West the index rose 1.8 percent to 94.8, but is below April 2008.