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Credit managers high on economy

The nation's credit managers are growing increasingly bullish about the U.S. economy, and in a monthly survey the Credit Managers' Index, a gauge of credit and collections, hit an 18-month high during November.

The National Association of Credit Management (NACM), headquartered in Columbia, MD, said the monthly index registered 58.0 in November, up 0.2 percent from 57.9 in October.

"Although the rate of growth in the manufacturing sector slowed this month, growth in the service sector increased," the NACM reported. "Overall, both sectors show considerable strength and have for several months. Based on the results of managing and extending unsecured trade credit, there aren't any indications of the economy stalling in the near future."

"The decline in the manufacturing sector for November isn't surprising," said the trade group, "given the strong gains recorded in each of the immediately preceding two months." The monthly canvassed showed "There are fewer accounts being rejected, placed with collection agencies and filing bankruptcy. Customer disputes have increased, but the reading is neutral."

The monthly survey asks credit managers to rate favorable and unfavorable factors in their monthly business cycle. Favorable factors include sales, new credit applications, dollar collections and amount of credit extended. Unfavorable factors include rejections of credit applications, accounts placed for collection, dollar amounts of receivables beyond terms and filings for bankruptcy.

Home builders still upbeat

Ending a record-breaking year for home sales on a strong note, the nation's home builders remained bullish about the marketplace for homes at year's end, and their December confidence level remained unchanged from November's upwardly-revised reading of 70, the National Association of Home Builders reported.

The trade group, based in Washington, D.C., said, "Buyer demand is holding up well this holiday season, and single-family builders are pleased to be ending the year on such a high note," said Kent Conine, NAHB president.

"Looking forward, builders remain quite optimistic, but are expressing some concern about the possibility of higher interest rates as the economic expansion continues," commented David Seiders, NAHB chief economist. "That concern is reflected in the slip that was registered in the future expectations component" of the index.

Residential remodeling gains strength in Q3

Professional remodelers said their business remained strong during the third quarter of the year, and most expect continued healthy business activity throughout the next several months, according to a recent canvass by the National Association of Home Builders.

"Low interest rates, rising home values and strong home sales are definitely contributing to the remodeling fervor among home owners," said Mike Weiss, chairman of the NAHB's Remodelers' Council. "In addition, the rebounding economy and rising consumer confidence are fueling substantial optimism among remodelers."

Both remodeling indices — measuring current activity and future expectations — held steady in the third quarter after posting substantial gains in the prior three months. "The year-over-year gains in both indexes hold true for every region across the board, indicating the very broad-based strength of this market," said David Seiders, NAHB chief economist.

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