Top Wells Fargo economist on delayed marriages, SouthPark’s future and Trump’s dealmaking

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Wells Fargo Senior Economist Mark Vitner shows up a lot on CNBC, Bloomberg and other cable TV business news networks because of his insightful and often provocative commentary. Speaking today at a Charlotte real estate conference, the Queen City-based prognosticator didn’t disappoint, sharing a variety of remarks on various business issues.

Mark VitnerWells Fargo

Mark Vitner

– Even the most valuable shopping centers, such as Charlotte’s SouthPark and Atlanta’s Lenox Square, will look very different within 10 years as e-commerce sales erode profits of traditional retailing. Those malls and others will be renovated to include more housing and entertainment options, looking more like the Waverly mixed-use development in south Charlotte.

– The most valuable assets of SouthPark and other malls are the parking lots, which provide great opportunity for development; zoning rules that permit many options; and traffic signals that facilitate good access.

– Only about 16 of the nation’s 62 largest metro areas showed significant population growth in the last decade. And those areas made up about 70% of the nation’s new apartment development since 2010. Much of the country isn’t growing, he said. Raleigh and Charlotte are among the 10 fastest-growing metros.

– About 35% of millennial women have four-year college degrees versus 23% of millennial men. Because women want to marry fellow graduates, that is slowing the pace of marriages and birth, which has a significant economic impact.

– President Trump’s negotiating style gets much derision, but it is proving effective in the current trade dispute with China. His approach is to rile up his opponents, then offer policy solutions that often make economic sense. China, which is experiencing a significant decline in growth,  is making empty threats to respond to U.S. actions. Hence, a trade deal positive for the U.S. is likely.

– The Federal Reserve will probably lower interest rates in June, defying conventional wisdom. Vitner said that is his personal view, shared by about 10% of economic forecasters, and not the official Wells Fargo view.

– U.S. unemployment will probably fall to 3% this year. LinkedIn and other employment services have made the job market much more efficient, which is affecting the unemployment rate.

– A recession is mostly like to start sometime between mid-2020 and the end of 2021. Again, that is Vitner’s personal view and not his employer’s.

– The recovery in U.S. manufacturing employment in the last decade is the strongest since the sector peaked in 1979.

 

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