Wunderlich’s Hogan Offers Latest Read on Economy

A little more than a year ago, Wunderlich Securities Inc. chief market strategist Art Hogan stood before an audience of business leaders assembled by The Daily News – part of the paper’s regular seminar series – and offered his take on an economic recovery that looked different depending on where a person stood.

On Wall Street, he explained, things were looking great. On Main Street, not so much.

Fast forward to this month. Hogan was back in Memphis in recent days, having stepped away from his New York office to attend meetings at Wunderlich’s Memphis headquarters.

Amid making his usual rounds in the financial press, Hogan also shared with The Daily News his latest views about the economy today and the state of the consumer.

His verdict: things are looking a lot better at the moment.

“The economy in the second quarter was a lot stronger than in the first,” said Hogan, whose job for Wunderlich involves providing analysis on the economy, market volatility and corporate data.

His current assessment is that the economy has gained strength on several key fronts. Among them: Consumers have more money in their pockets right now, he said, thanks to falling prices at the gas pump.

He also cited news reports showing that auto sales in May were on track to notch their biggest annual sales volume in more than a decade and pointed to the industry’s seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate (or, SAAR, an important auto industry metric) hitting 17.5 million during May. And why not, he goes on – interest rates are low, making it easier to finance new buys.

Hogan also said the economy is seeing a pickup in loan demand at the regional bank level, particularly when it comes to commercial and industrial loans – the kind made to businesses.

“That speaks to hiring” and is another positive sign, he adds.

It’s also in line with banking trends visible in the Memphis area. According to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, loans are up slightly among Memphis banks; their total loan amount stood at $21.9 billion in the first quarter, up from a little more than $20 billion in first quarter 2014.

Meanwhile, mortgage volume in Shelby County was up 16 percent in May, according to real estate information company Chandler Reports. Volume rose from $118.9 million in May 2014 to $138.2 million last month.

Home sales also were up slightly in Shelby County last month – 1,272 sales compared to 1,238 in May 2014, a 3 percent increase.

“We’re clearly in an improving economy – it’s just the recovery has been much shallower and longer than we probably would have preferred,” Hogan said.


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