That's music to a lot of ears. The widely-known index that measures consumer attitudes and buying intentions jumped 12.3 points in April, representing the best showing for it since November. Despite that, it would be premature to pop any corks yet and let it flow. The banking sector continues to wallow in deep trouble and the job market has seen much better days.
Still, it is a sign that sun is beginning to shine through gaps in the dark clouds overhead. The mood from the steady drumbeat of mortgage foreclosures to layoffs to corporate trouble is seemingly shifting, although cautiously, toward the belief that tomorrow has more to offer than today. This could actually be the onset of the eventual turnaround.
The real estate market that is largely responsible for the meltdown is bubbling with energy in many areas. Vegas home sales are improving, numerous California cities are witnessing steady increases, South Florida has attracted scores of first-time buyers and investors and Arizona, too, is joining in on the activity. There are other areas showing similar advances.
It's easy to see why. Mortgage interest rates are very appealing, so long as the applicant meets the still strict guidelines. And probably even more enticing are the prices that are reaching levels not seen for a long time. Southern Nevada values, for instance, have now dropped to where they were very early in the decade. Those days Sin City was considered home buyers heaven and it's turning into one again.
Housing dragged the economy into this and now it's slowly picking itself up off the mat and apparently has enough legs to gradually move forward. True, there remain serious imbalances in residential real estate that will take a while to cure, so any path to recovery will be at least mildly turbulent. But perhaps the first seeds for it have been sown.