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Signs of awakening economy evident.

Perhaps we will look back upon 1992 as the shortest day of our industry's long winter of discontent and uncertainty. For, like the period after Dec. 21 each year, there are signs of lengthening days and a perception of persistent movement to brighter and warmer times, even if only minute-by-minute, day-by-day.

To be sure, in the midst of ice and snow, it's sometimes difficult to believe there will ever be another day on the beach. But, like the seasons of the year and the cycles of the economy, the one constant for the city's real estate industry is change -- and the careful observer can see signs of change for the better. Though still selective by market sector, the direction is clear -- and it is up.

Consider the headlines of recent months. "Consultants Find Metropolitan Area More Competitive." "Lower Cost Space Harbinger of Revival." "Big Lease Gives a Lift to Midtown." "Midtown Apparently Over Worst of Times."

An extensive review of the region's economy recently in the New York Times spoke of a drop in Midtown office vacancies and noted that a study by Columbia University's prestigious Center for International Business Cycle Research said the "leading indicators" of the city economy indicated "New York City's recession came to an end during the summer of 1992."

In the same story is a report of a survey of 500 business owners in the tri-state area by Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm. It noted that "the numbers clearly indicate that the tri-state region has turned the corner and is now poised for economic recovery. The Anderson study said that "75 percent of the executives (surveyed) reported either stable or improved sales in 1992 and 66 percent had increased profit."

And, finally, from Cushman & Wakefield's Midtown Marketrend is a report that Midtown leasing activity in the third quarter of 1992 was 23 percent above the same time period in 1991. C&W said year-to-date information in November showed an increase of some 18 percent

Combine this kind of market activity with increasingly positive national economic reports including improvement in employment, inflation in check as demonstrated by both producer and consumer price indexes, increasing retail sales, gains in domestic car sales, and an optimistic forecast by the nation's purchasing managers among other signs, and you have reason to believe the bottom is behind us and momentum is building for a sustained recovery.

Add to this actions by the city, such as the freeze on real property taxes, and you begin to see the beginnings of something. Economists find with analysis of recessions that the upturn inevitably began a considerable time before it was realized, and I suspect we will find that to be the ease with the real estate market -- especially as it applies to first class space in midtown Manhattan.

Perception does, indeed, trail reality. That, of course, leads directly to Rockefeller Center, where we see evidence of change and a growing understanding that the days of bottom fishing are numbered.

For example, we've had an increase of more than 30 percent in the number of leases closed in 1992 versus 1991 and an increase of nearly 60 percent in the number of square feet leased. All indicators point to an acceleration of this activity in the Center.

So, like the very earliest blooms in spring, squeezing tentatively but persistently through snow-covered ground, we do see the signs of an awakening economy and an awakening market.
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Title Annotation:Review & Forecast, Section V
Author:Stein, Alan L.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 27, 1993
Previous Article:Consumer confidence gaining momentum.
Next Article:Meeting real estate needs as the world turns.

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