Consumer Confidence a Mite Stronger

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased in April to 57.9, compared with 52.3 in March. The index is now at its highest in about a year and a half--since the edge of the economic abyss in fall 2008, in fact.

April 28, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user dan4th

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased in April to 57.9, compared with 52.3 in March. The index is now at its highest in about a year and a half–since the edge of the economic abyss in fall 2008, in fact.

The 5,000 households surveyed for the report were even more optimistic about employment. The percentage of consumers anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 18 percent from 14.1 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 20 percent from 21.4 percent.

Separately, for the first time since December 2006, both composite S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices saw a year-over-year increase, though they also dropped a little between January and February of this year. The 10-City Composite is up 1.4 percent from where it was in February 2009, while the 20-City Composite is up 0.6 percent compared with the same time last year. Eleven of 20 cities saw year over-year declines, however.

European University Names Top 10 U.S. Green REITs

According to a recent study by Maastricht University (Universiteit Maastricht) in the Netherlands, the best-performing public real estate company in the United States in terms of sustainability initiatives–expressed as the university’s Environmental Real Estate Index–is Vornado Realty Trust. “This company actively incorporates environmental practices in its management, for example by striving to certify the existing portfolio under the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s LEED for Existing Buildings system,” the report noted. “The total score of Vornado is 55, which is mainly due to its excellent environmental Management & Policy score.”

The next nine U.S. public companies on list are (in descending order) Liberty Property Trust, Douglas Emmett, Simon Property Group, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, AMB Property Corp., Macerich, ProLogis, Digital Realty Trust and Kilroy Realty Corp.

But that’s only U.S. companies. The study, formally called “Environmental Performance: A Global Perspective on Commercial Real Estate, also said that “relative to the top 10 in other geographic areas, the best environmental performers in the U.S. still underperform. If we were to create a global ranking of individual property companies based on environmental performance, then Vornado would be number 21 on the list.”

Worldwide, the real hotshots of publicly traded real estate environmentalists are the Australians. According to Maastricht University, the top five in Oz outperform both their European and American peers “to a great extent.”

Mortgage Fraud Hasn’t Disappeared

The Mortgage Asset Research Institute, a LexisNexis service, reported on Tuesday that reported incidents of mortgage fraud and misrepresentation by professionals in the mortgage industry in the U.S. continue to climb, increasing by 7 percent from 2008 to 2009. Though an increase year-over-year, that’s actually a much slower rate of increasing mortgage fraud than the jump from 2007 to 2008, which was 28 percent.

The number-one state for mortgage fraud, said the report, was Florida. New York and California followed as number two and three respectively in that dubious distinction.

Wall Street took a nice long slide on Tuesday in the wake of Standard & Poor’s announcement that investors should beware Greeks (and for some reason, Portuguese) bearing bonds. In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped below 11,000 on its downward course, ending down 213.04 points, or 1.9 percent. The S&P 500 lost 2.34 percent and the Nasdaq declined 2.04 percent.