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Monday, February 18, 2013

Tuesday: Homebuilder Confidence Survey

by Calculated Risk on 2/18/2013 09:15:00 PM

A couple of interesting stories ...

First, the prices for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil have diverged in recent years due to pipeline capacity issues. Jim Hamilton discusses the plans to build more pipelines: Planned crude oil pipelines. A pretty impressive amount of capaticy will be built over the next couple of years (See Hamilton's post).

And on California from the WaPo: Will higher taxes on the rich derail California’s economic comeback?

The tax increases approved in November are a big reason the state isn’t staring down another huge budget shortfall or the prospect of issuing IOUs to fill it. They include bumping the sales tax up slightly and raising the top income tax rate to 13.3 percent, which is four percentage points higher than the District of Columbia’s and more than double the rate in Virginia or Maryland.

Yet many economists and some young executives in the state say they don’t worry about that high rate chilling growth. Other factors loom much larger for California’s business and economic health, they say, including whether the state can maintain deep pools of highly skilled talent and, in complicated but important ways, the renewed upward march of home prices in the Bay Area and beyond.

“I don’t think we should be surprised that the state is growing, nor that California is growing faster than the national economy,” said Christopher Thornberg, an economist and the founding partner of Beacon Economics.
“The evidence is, from past tax increases, that it makes very little difference,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast, who predicts only a slight scrape to state growth from the new rate increases. Since 1967, he added, tax hikes and cuts in the state have had a “second-order effect” on growth.

The bigger threat, other economists say, might be another run-up of housing prices, especially where the innovators live.

Housing prices are a much bigger factor in most people’s budgets than state tax rates, said Jed Kolko, chief economist for the online real estate site Trulia. If home prices rise quickly, he said, they constrain growth more than taxes do: “The skilled workforce that California presents as an advantage,” Kolko said, “is also threatened by higher housing prices.”
Tuesday economic releases:
• At 10:00 AM ET, the February NAHB homebuilder survey. The consensus is for a reading of 48, up from 47 in January. Although this index has been increasing sharply, any number below 50 still indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good.