Local economic forecasters see more of the same this year as economy digs out

A group of financial analysts see more of the same economic stuttering in 2013 as the nation continues to climb out of the current fiscal slump.

Speaking at Columbus State University’s Turner College Business Advisory Council State of the Market breakfast, Atlanta analysts Dorsey D. Farr of French, Wolf and Farr summed it up best.

“The circumstances in 2013 are very similar to last year, and we expect similar growth patterns,” Farr said.

The projections include modest growth in the stock market, historically low interest rates and rising inflation.

One positive trend over the last four years, according to Farr, is U.S. households have continued to pay down debt, knocking more than $1 trillion off the national number. The downside to that is families nationally need to take another $2 trillion bite out of household debt.

Five local stock professionals — John Shinkle of Stifel Nicolaus, Robert Nobles of Synovus Trust, Richard Ilges of Greatmark Investment Partners, Mark Hudson of SunTrust Bank and Vad Yazvinski of Jordan Capital — offered their assessments and projections on the market.

Shinkle was the top prognosticator a year ago, most closely predicting the year-end Dow Jones Industrial Average, interest rates and picking one high-performing stock.

Benjamin Blair, who holds the Sarah T. Butler Distinguished University Chair in Business and Finance, presented the findings of a study looking at the economic outlook for Columbus businesses. More than 200 businesses were asked to participate and 20 did. The survey showed local businesses were mildly optimistic about an expansion of the national and local economies.

A majority believe the number of visitors to Columbus will increase this year.

One of the most interesting questions Blair asked was about the Muscogee County residential property tax freeze and its impact on economic growth. About 75 percent said the tax freeze, which protects homeowners from rising assessments as long as they stay in their houses, has an adverse impact on economic growth in Columbus.

“Why might that be the case?” Blair asked. “It puts the local real estate market at a disadvantage to the markets around us.”

Blair also pointed out the freeze keeps people from relocating within Columbus.