Chin Up in the Downswing


Chin Up in the Downswing: A Veritable Buffet for Casual Restaurants, Home Buyers and Political Analysts

March 18, 2009 05:15 PM
by Anne Szustek
If Darden Restaurants’ third-quarter earnings are any indication, Americans are still dining out—that is, when they’re not taking advantage of low mortgage rates and tax credits provided by the stimulus package. U.S. fiscal policy is also helping to boost job prospects for political analysts.

Casual Dining not Recession Casualty

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of such chain eateries as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, reported better than expected third-quarter earnings. Yesterday, the Florida-based company said that its earnings per share came out at $0.78, topping original estimates of $0.68 cents. “The markets are taking this news today as some kind of a sign that the consumer is sticking with the casual dining atmosphere and rewarding DRI stock accordingly,” wrote BloggingStocks. The strong numbers have prompted Darden Restaurants to raise its outlook for 2009.

Surge in U.S. Mortgage Refinancing Applications

Today, the U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association reported a 30 percent increase in refinancing applications during the week ending March 13, on the back of a decrease in interest rates for 30-year home loans. “The MBA’s market index, which includes both purchase and refinance loans, jumped 21.2 percent to 876.9, the highest since mid-January,” Reuters reports.

Those looking to buy homes, rather than refinance an existing mortgage, can take advantage of an $8,000 tax credit laid out in President Barack Obama’s $275 billion housing stimulus package, another step that could help to revive the housing market. "In a survey of clients, the early indication is the tax credit is attractive and motivates primarily first time buyers," Patrick Lashinsky, CEO of Emeryville, Calif., brokerage ZipRealty, told Reuters.

Likely New Need for Political Strategists in Financial Sector

Political science majors, get your résumés ready. According to The Wall Street Journal’s MarketBeat blog, the oncoming influx of stimulus funds has created a need for financial consultants with a background in political analysis and macroeconomics. “It’s so hard to get people to pay for research traditionally, but not with the D.C. guys now,” John Merriman, the CEO of San Francisco-based brokerage firm Merriman Curhan Ford, told the Journal. “If you have knowledge on what parts of the stimulus go where and when, people will pay for that.”

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