Confidence climbing in Florida


Consumers aren’t feeling as gloomy as the gyrating stock market suggests. A UF survey shows the Sunshine State much sunnier than in `11. The good old days remain about six years behind.

The economy doesn’t have Floridians quite as spooked lately.

That’s the conclusion of a surprisingly rosy University of Florida survey, which shows rising consumer sentiment in the Sunshine State. The main UF index is up 13 percent from a year ago and modestly higher from the start of 2012. That’s despite a rocky stock market and heightened fears that the United States could be heading for a double-dip recession.

“It is encouraging,’’ said Chris McCarty, head of the UF survey center that manages the confidence index. The Florida numbers were released the same day a national survey also showed consumers feeling slightly more confident than they were earlier in the year.

The rising numbers come at a crucial time for the economy, as it faces its third summer scare in as many years. As in 2010 and 2011, this year began with what looked like promising economic growth only to see the recovery stall.

Case-Shiller on Tuesday released its monthly report on local home values, and prices are up for the sixth straight month in South Florida. The 3 percent increase in May from the prior year makes this the longest stretch of price gains since the summer of 2006. That’s when South Florida saw an 83-month run of rising values end with what would be the start of the housing bust. Values remain down 48 percent from those peak levels.

Spending continues to be a bright spot, shaking off relatively weak gains in April with a strong May. Figures from Florida’s Department of Revenue show May spending in South Florida was up 6.6 percent, slightly below the 7 percent average for the year but better than April’s 5 percent gain.

The early-summer numbers don’t capture the latest spending activity or the economic anxiety that seems to be seeping out in other indicators. A European debt crisis has Wall Street on edge, along with softening corporate profits and consumer spending.

Mariolja Calderon relies on spending one sugary splurge at a time. She started her Mo’s Cakes kiosk three years ago at the Midtown Miami shopping mall. Based around her grandmother’s cinnamon bundt cakes, the cart of treats priced from a few dollars to $25 has generally done well at its streetside location. But Calderon said she’s seen business soften this summer.

“These last few months have been slow,’’ Calderon said. “For a while there, you saw a little bit of a pick-up in business and some optimism.”

UF’s confidence index actually spiked in July — from 73 to 76. But a three-month average of the index shows a steady improvement from January, when it measured 71.

McCarty, the survey director, expects confidence to take a dive once consumers realize the perils brewing in Washington as lawmakers and the White House grapple with mandatory tax hikes and spending cuts. The so-called “fiscal cliff” takes effect in January unless Washington passes a law that would reduce the deficit in other ways.

“I don’t think all of this stuff that is going to happen in January has hit home yet,’’ he said.

Read more The Economic Time Machine stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category