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S&P Dow Jones Indices Recaps 2012 Financial Market Performance; Identifies Headwinds That Could Impact Returns In 2013

Commentary

U.S. Housing Prices and the EconomyAccording to Dr. David Blitzer , Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices:  

"The U.S. residential housing market turned the corner in 2012 with six consecutive months of rising home prices through September, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. Count on 2013 to be the year when housing's rebound accelerates and the industry becomes a positive contributor to U.S. economic growth. All major housing indicators point up: home prices, housing starts, sales of existing and new homes, buyer and builder optimism. Mortgage rates remain at or near 30-year lows and foreclosures are retreating. For the first time since the boom went bust, housing looks good.

Anticipate that in 2013, the market will continue to normalize; that location, location, location once again will matter; and home prices across the country won't move in lock step as they did from 2004 to 2008. We could potentially see some strong city-by-city results such as strength in Washington, D.C., even though a party change in the White House isn't occurring, and in Phoenix, which was among the hardest hit cities.

The fiscal cliff – the collection of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for New Year's Day – is the biggest risk and largest challenge for 2013.  If the U.S. plunges off that cliff, a recession may start in the first quarter, meaning jobless rises and declines in about everything else – GDP, profits, incomes, and stock prices for a few.  If the cliffhanger ends on a positive note, the economy should continue to grow and by solid numbers. Unemployment would decline slightly; housing starts and sales would expand as well as consumer-related measures."

CommoditiesOn the performance of the commodities markets in 2012 and 2013, Jodie Gunzberg , director of commodity indices for S&P Dow Jones Indices, says:

"Despite relatively flat returns, 2012 was far from calm in the commodities markets. The S&P GSCI opened the year with a big rise but by June 21, it had slid 22% from its peak. Then the markets shifted again, driven by natural gas technology as the U.S. looked to become energy independent from the world's largest energy importer. By September 14, the Index had climbed 25% from the trough and just shy of its February peak.

The worst U.S. drought in a half century in the summer destroyed corn, wheat and soybean crops, and prices soared. But as the weather has cooled, so has risk appetite amid global economic concerns, driving down industrial metals and energy prices. Consequently, the S&P GSCI is basically unchanged from the start of 2012.

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