Main Story: New Directions

The average price of gas may surpass $4 gallon before Labor Day. Nationally, the average hit a new record of $3.53 a gallon in mid-April, according to AAA. In some areas, including parts of California and Florida, prices have already surpassed that level.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index hit a five-year low in March at 64.5. Meanwhile the group's expectations Index declined to 47.9 (a 35-year low) from 58.0 in February and the present situation index decreased to 89.2 from 104.0.

Vacancy rates at neighborhood and community centers have been flat or rising for 11 straight quarters, reaching 7.7 percent at the end of the first quarter of 2008. They now are at their highest levels since 1997, according to Reis.

The value of all retail real estate investment sales in February dropped to $1.1 billion — an 88 percent crash from the same month last year and a 55 percent drop from January. The ratio of listings to closings rose to 4 to 1 from 2 to 1 the previous month.

As of mid-April, conduits had completed only $3.6 billion in CMBS issuances. In 2007, there were $230 billion in issuances. Recent projections indicate total issuance volume may reach just $30 billion, down from earlier projections of $100 billion.

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