Pending Home Sales Up in Some Places

The National Association of Realtors index of pending existing home sales fell 0.7 percent nationwide to 88.9 in October. According to Bloomberg, observers had been expecting a 3 percent drop for the month, but apparently some buyers have been able to take advantage of the steep recent drops in housing prices, especially in the South, where pending sales jumped 7.8 percent, and Northeast, where they were up 0.6 percent. According to a survey of 31,800 employers nationwide by Manpower Inc., two-thirds of them plan to hold staff levels steady in the first quarter of 2009, while 16 percent plan to hire more workers, down from 22 percent in the first quarter of 2008. Thirteen percent planned staff reduction. The industries that plan on hiring the most workers include mining and professional and business services; the weakest outlook is for manufacturers, transportation and utilities.A new report by the British organization Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors predicts that valuations for office, industrial and retail property in the U.K. might fall 25 percent by the end of 2010 as a result of the worldwide recession. According to the Coventry-based real estate trade association, the recent peak in valuation was in June 2007, and if the market proceeds as predicted, the low at the end of 2010 would represent a decline of 50 percent off that high-water mark.In this country, Fitch Ratings has he the Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) and outstanding debt ratings of General Growth Properties from B to C in both cases, stating that default is nigh for the second-largest mall owner in the United States. The company has until Friday to come to terms with creditors it owes $900 million. If it can’t, GGP is facing default followed by bankruptcy. No word yet on the nationalization–that is, the bailout–of the U.S. auto industry, but media outlets report that a deal between the White House and Congress is close at hand. In exchange for a lifeline of loans, the government would become the largest shareholder of the Big Three and the industry would have to answer to a “car czar.”