Foodservice Equipment Reports Fortnightly

Welcome to FER Fortnightly Online Newsletter
March 7, 2006

Regulatory Report:
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Hotelex Shanghai,
April 4-7, 2006
Kansas Mulls Dumping Equipment Tax
Cameras May Be On Menu For Chicago Restaurants
Maine Businesses Get Gripe Forum
Nantucket The Latest To Consider Banning Chains

Industry Report:
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Server Products

Consultants' Summit Slated For April
Industry Mourns Fisher Mfg. Co. Chairman
Technical Center For Excellence Closer To Launch
MAFSI, FCSI, CFESA Debut Startup & Demo Packet
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In This Section:
NRA Performance Index, Capital Expenditures Rise
Early Retail Sales Soft In February; Consumer Confidence Edgy
Consumers Fret Interest Rates, Job Prospects
Blue Chip International Forecasts Trend Higher

This issue's Regulatory ReportSponsor: Hotelex Shanghai, April 4-7, 2006 Industry ReportSponsor:
Server Products

Economic Report FER's Customer Choice Dealer Awards

NRA Performance Index, Capital Expenditures Rise
A warm January is good for the restaurant business. The favorable weather and continued decent consumer spending helped push the Restaurant Performance Index maintained by the National Restaurant Association to a 13-month high in January. The overall index reached 102.3 in January, up 0.3 point from December.

It is the highest level since late 2004 and the 31st consecutive month that the Index has been above 100, the tipping point for expansion versus contraction.

Two of the four components of the Current Situation Index were up; three of the four markers in the Expectations Index also rose. Both the Current Situations and Expectations Indexes tracked higher.

The strongest gainers in both the Current and Expectations indexes were those tied to capital expenditures. This follows declines in both indicators in December. In the Current Situation Index capital expenditures during the past three months rose a whopping 0.7 point to 100.1. In the Expectations Index, capital expenditures expected during the next six months rose an even stronger 0.9 point to 102.9

Both capital expenditure markers are usually rather sluggish at this time of year.


Early Retail Sales Soft In February; Consumer Confidence Edgy
The weather gods giveth; the weather gods taketh away. After mild weather in January may have lured us into complacence, blizzards in February battered sales at many general merchandise retailers, according to early reports.

The early retail numbers, which appear to be soft, usually foreshadow restaurant sales. This year retail sales had been trending higher because of a mild January in most of the country, until nasty weather affected large swatches of the population-heavy Northeast through much of February.

The weather may be combining with a slide in consumer confidence and stretched budgets to hold down restaurant spending. Gasoline prices have been on the rise again and some households are beginning to feel the effects of a slowing housing market and higher interest rates.

Consumers Fret Interest Rates, Job Prospects
Consumers have higher interest rates, rising prices and job losses on their minds, according to the latest read from the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. As a result, the group's Consumer Sentiment Index fell to 86.7 in February, down from 91.2 in January and 94.1 a year ago February.

Survey Director Richard Curtain said consumers have not become pessimistic about future economic prospects so much as just more uncertain. "Robust growth in jobs and wages are needed to effectively counter the uncertainty," he said.

The Index of Consumer Expectations also fell, to 74.5 in February. This compares with 78.9 in January and 84.4 a year ago.

The results are very much in line with those from other services tracking consumer confidence.

Blue Chip International Forecasts Trend Higher
Forecasts for many major economies around the world rose in the most recent consensus forecasts from economists polled by Blue Chip Economic Indicators. While most of the upward revisions were only 0.1 point, the upward trend was apparent across the globe.

The real gross domestic product forecast for China rose 0.2 point to 8.8% for 2006. GDP forecasts also rose for Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, while the forecast for Japan held steady.

In Europe, it was a bit more mixed, with France up 0.1, Germany unchanged and the United Kingdom down 0.1.

The Eurozone forecast was up 0.1 point. The consensus forecasts for both Canada and Mexico rose 0.1 while that for Brazil was steady.

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