Good news watch:WASH…
Good news watch:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumer prices fell by 0.1 percent in July as gasoline prices dropped while output at factories and housing construction posted healthy rebounds, offering hope the economy has escaped this summer’s “soft patch.”

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the decline in its closely watched Consumer Price Index was the first decrease since a 0.2 percent drop last November. The CPI had been up 0.3 percent in June and an even sharper 0.6 percent in May, reflecting big jumps in energy costs.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities rose by 0.4 percent in July, nearly erasing a 0.5 percent plunge in June. The increase was led by a sharp 1.2 percent jump in mining activity, a category that includes oil production, and a 0.6 percent rise in manufacturing activity, the biggest increase in this category three months.

In other good economic news, the Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes and apartments rose by 8.3 percent in July. The bigger-than-expected gain pushed housing construction to an annual rate of 1.978 million units last month, making up lost ground from a 7.7 percent decline in housing starts in June.

Unfortunately, this is just ahead of the economic news headlined by hurricane Charley.

Florida’s $8bn-a-year citrus industry took a big hit from Hurricane Charley, according to industry officials. But central Florida’s tourist industry, centred around Orlando, appears to have escaped with minimal damage.

Officials say it will be days before an accurate picture of the extent of damage to fruit on the trees, to the trees themselves and to industry infrastructure can be accurately assessed.

Three of the biggest citrus-growing counties – DeSoto, Hardee and Polk – were directly in the path of the storm, which hit land packing 145-mile per hour winds. In the town of Arcadia, a juice plant was reportedly destroyed, including the massive storage tanks that hold processed juice. One unconfirmed report placed the loss at $60m (€48.5m, £32.5m) for that plant alone.

In DeSoto County, trees were reported to be surrounded by mounds of unripe fruit blown off them. Elsewhere, many were reported uprooted or damaged.

The storm’s path covered areas where about 35 per cent of the state’s total citrus production is concentrated. Growers in the region were “devastated”, said Casey Pace of Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade association. Growers were in such despair that “they won’t talk” about their losses, she added.

Some time next month, expect the Kerry/Edwards campaign to make a number of stops in Florida to blame the bad citrus economy on Bush, just like they’ve blamed him for the economic hit we took after 9/11.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!