Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q1 2011: We Hope and Wait

An analysis of 1st Quarter indices of the PR economy

Economic indices are hitting a soft patch as business and consumers struggle to cope with rising energy and food costs as well as continued concerns regarding further weakening of the global economy. Both here and in the US mainland, economic news continues to dampen optimism regarding a quick and substantial economic recovery. The consumption rebound of 4Q 2010 with healthy new car sales bottomed again this quarter. We hope for less job losses in manufacturing and other economic activities but the reality of this quarter is otherwise. We hope for less rising energy costs and less federal spending cuts but the debate in Congress continues to unravel for political gain. And we wait locally for the start of the Public Private Partnerships, the expected positive effects of the tax and permitting reforms, and more lending from banking.

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Q4 2010: Puerto Rico’s Recovery is Past Due

What 4th Quarter 2010 economic indices reveal

The fourth quarter of 2010 unveiled mixed results. Auto sales and housing sales improved, while other indicators, especially the labor market and the construction sector, pointed to continued recession. There are doubts regarding the strength of consumer behavior during Q4 since Xmas purchases were financed in part with the withholding personal income tax in December that Treasury did not collect. It is not clear yet how the Tax Reform will generate new economic activity and create new jobs. The frequently announced initiative of Public Private Partnerships that would generate investment and jumpstart the economy has not started. According to NBER, the US recession started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 whereas our “criollo” recovery is still in the distant horizon. For many, a local economic recovery is long overdue.

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Q3 2010: Can Reforms Get Us Out of Recession?

3rd Quarter 2010 economic indices in PR track the economy

The third quarter of 2010 has seen the start of many reforms in PR, from permits to taxes to government and a few more yet to come. The “objective” is to improve the business environment in Puerto Rico. Downsizing the government was the first initiative to reduce bureaucracy and restore fiscal discipline. Permit reform, due to start December of this year, is the first of several initiatives to accelerate construction and put PR back on track. As October ends, we start discussing tax reform with a controversial excise tax on exports of foreign companies. Next in line is labor reform to restore competitiveness in PR. The question is: can these reforms get us out of the hole?

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q2 2010: Strike to the Economy

An analysis of 2nd Quarter 2010 economic indices in PR

Puerto Rico’s second quarter has been characterized by media coverage on the consolidation in banking sector where three troubled local banks were acquired by other banks in an FDIC assisted transaction. The second big issue was the two-month students’ strike at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). It had huge economic implications. At the economic sectors level, construction continues to pull the economy downwards while a cautious banking sector continues to tighten credit. The Public Private Partnerships have not started yet but they still ignite positive expectations for the near future. Amidst this bleak outlook, some good news emerge, mainly positive consumer spending and new, though more long term, announcement of investments in the tourism sector.

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q1 2010: Curb your Enthusiasm

An analysis of 1st Quarter 2010 economic indices in PR

At the start of 2010, many were hoping to leave behind the longest recession in recent history in Puerto Rico. During the 1st Q of 2010, there are some signs of improvement in consumption, but we hasten to add that there are many structural problems that still worry us. Some of these bewildering trends include: the situation of the banking industry, the island’s huge public debt, a troubled PR Retirement System, and a low labor participation rate, among others. Consumer and producer sentiments do impact economic activity so perceptions are just as important as hard-core economic data. In this context, clear and credible economic policies adopted by the public sector can play a leading role in economic recovery in PR. This issue examines how recent developments both in and outside Puerto Rico have impacted the HCCG indices and how upcoming events could influence the economy in the near future.

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Q4 2009: US Recovers, But What About Puerto Rico?

An analysis of 2009 Q4 economic indices in PR

A lackluster 2009 is over. Global growth fell from 3.0% in 2008 to –1.1% in 2009 –the first outright decline of world GDP since the IMF began collecting the data in 1970. The recession in the US appears to have ended by Q4 of 2009. The key issue now is the shape of the impending recovery. There is an alphabet of possibilities. The pessimists fear a “W,” or perhaps an “L,” where the economy simply bounces along the bottom for a while. The optimists say the US economy typically bounces back robustly with a “V-shape.” The consensus seems to expect a solid, but less spectacular “U-shaped” recovery. In contrast, there is no recovery yet in Puerto Rico. The forecast is a more feeble “U-shaped” recovery. Structural issues in our economy, an unclear growth strategy, and ongoing banking problems are part of the problem. On the bright side, unemployment and car sales portrayed some improvement at the end of the quarter. Find out how other indicators performed in Q4 of 2009.

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Q3 2009: Time Is Running Out for Recovery

Economic indices in Q3 in PR confirm a trend

Stimulus programs provide some relief to deal with the sharp downturn in PR. The federal program CARS (Car Allowance Rebate Program) or cash for clunkers, boosted auto sales in the island but only during August. However, this growth is not sustainable in coming months. Our quarterly indices continue to be negative. The positive effects of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and LSP (Local Stimulus Plan) are as yet unobserved. Only 18% of the federal stimulus and 5% of the local stimulus have been disbursed. Fixing the $3.2b government deficit has required bitter medicine, including payroll savings, reduction in operational expenses and contracts, as well as government health plan savings, among others. This led to $1.2 million in savings as of October. Come November 6 of this year, 21,807 public employees will lose their jobs. Time is running out for government and the private sector to start the recovery.

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Q2 2009: Is the Worst over for Puerto Rico’s economy?

The good and bad news of the economic indices

During the first six months of this year, the PR economy posted negative numbers. How long will this last? Will recovery start soon? Governor Fortuño’s economic proposals combined with President Obama’s American Recovery Plan are expected to finally spur growth in the island but it will take time. Construction is still in recession but hopefully not for long. Manufacturing is also stalling and losing jobs. Banking is positive but close to zero growth. Overall, the consumer and the economy have posted negative results. The leading index does not augur a quick turnaround. The problem for the local government will not be a lack of money to increase investment and boost the economy. Instead, the challenge is how efficient, effective, and fast will it do it.

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Q1 2009: Tracking Puerto Rico’s Economic Scorecard

Quarterly economic indices tell the story

During the first quarter of 2009, the newly elected government announced huge fiscal deficits and an urgent need to reduce public expenses. Federal and local stimulus plans were approved with the hope of restoring growth in the short run. The administration announced a reduction of 30,000 jobs starting in fiscal 2010. This measure is recessionary and will worsen unemployment, which reached 14.1% during February. How long will the recession last? This will depend on the effectiveness of the recovery plans and on what sectors investment flows while at the same time, consumers recover confidence on the island’s economic future. How the US economy performs, as well as local sectors, such as, construction and banking are the clue to finally register positive growth.

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Q4 2008: Every Sector Takes a Beating

Economic indices in Q4 tell the story the PR economy

Puerto Rico is in its third year of an economic recession. The current economic crisis is worldwide with a financial crisis that has not been resolved. As the mortgage market failed and many financial systems were rescued by government intervention, consumers and investors were less willing to spend and invest. Our consumer has also turned more cautious and thrifty. Gasoline and electricity bills have taken a big bite out of household budgets. Consumption is restricted and credit constraints are tightened. All economic sectors in PR, including banking, manufacturing, and construction have taken a beating and are struggling to charge ahead. As 2008 ended, a new governor was elected and together with a new team, Puerto Ricans hope to resolve the fiscal crisis and avert more unemployment.