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Consumers in Cautionary Holding Pattern as Fiscal Policy Debate Unfolds

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real_estate_fiscal_conceptAmericans tempered their optimism toward the housing market in September, perhaps indicating growing caution surrounding the fiscal policy debate, according to the Fannie Mae September 2013 National Housing Survey results. Although consumers continue to remain generally positive on average, their attitudes around housing have reached a plateau or decreased during the past three months. Notably, the September survey results may not reveal the full effect of the shutdown on October 1 and the pending debt ceiling debate, which will likely become more apparent in October and the coming months.

“Our September National Housing Survey results show that the improvements in consumer housing attitudes witnessed in recent months softened ahead of the government shutdown,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Americans’ awareness of policy uncertainty leading up to the October 1st shutdown and the pending debt ceiling debate appears to have grown as indicated by an apparent cautionary holding pattern in overall consumer housing and personal finance sentiment.”

“How and when these fiscal policy issues are addressed could impact consumer attitudes in October and beyond, and influence the fragile economic and housing recovery,” Duncan says. “Fifty-five percent of Americans continue to believe that the economy is on the wrong track, while 39 percent think the economy is on the right track. This gap narrowed to 16 percentage points in September. The gap could widen, depending on the outcome of the debt ceiling negotiations as the Treasury expects that the extraordinary measures to extend the nation’s borrowing authority will be exhausted by October 17. For example, during the contentious 2011 debt ceiling debate and the resulting S&P downgrade of the U.S. government debt, our survey showed that the right track-wrong track spread widened to a survey record of 64 percentage points.”

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