Market Report: Impact of weaker Canadian dollar still unclear


Heading into the end of the first quarter of 2014, it's still unclear what impact a weaker Canadian dollar is having on the Whatcom County economy.

While some surveys and analyses by economists indicate less cross-border traffic from British Columbia, southbound traffic was actually up year over year. One month of data, particularly when winter weather is a factor, does not make a trend, however, so it'll be interesting to see what happens if the loonie remains in the 90-cent range compared to the U.S. dollar.

It's possible the weaker loonie won't slow southbound border traffic that much; the weaker Canadian dollar also hurts B.C. retailers that buy U.S. products. That could mean higher prices for some retail products in Canada, making prices in Whatcom County more attractive.

Something to watch is Bellingham airport traffic. Through the first two months of this year, 80,778 people have flown out of the airport, down 10.6 percent compared to the same time last year. Other factors such as weather could be at play, so the spring numbers might give a better indication of whether airport traffic is slowing down.

Significant local business events in February and early March: A couple of significant restaurant announcements were made, with Chipotle and Buffalo Wild Wings making plans to move into the former movie theater space at Bellis Fair mall by the fourth quarter of this year. ... The owners of the Shrimp Shack, Sarah and David James, have decided to close the restaurant at 1200 Cornwall Ave. when the lease expires at the end of May unless a buyer can be found to take over the business. Ferndale's Healthy Pet, formerly known as Absorption Corp., has acquired the Simply Pine cat litter brand from Dry Creek Products, LLC. As part of the deal, Dry Creek has agreed to a multi-year contract to supply Healthy Pet with cat litter products. ... The Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa has started construction to add a new hotel tower and additional meeting space. Expansion plans include adding 100 hotel rooms, increasing the total number of rooms to 205. The project also will add 3,000 square feet of meeting space, an expanded hotel lobby and a new bar.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q3 2013: $915.3 million

Q2 2013: $853.2 million

Q3 2012: $860.9 million

Quarterly change: up 12.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.7 percent

Seven-year quarterly high: $915.3 million, third quarter 2013

Seven-year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009

Whatcom County bankruptcies

January 2014: 26

December 2013 43

January 2013: 36

Monthly change: down 39.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 27.8 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Eight-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

December 2013: 389

November 2013: 243

December 2012: 276

Monthly change: up 60 percent

Year-over-year change: up 40.9 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Seven-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

February 2014: 151

January 2014: 148

February 2013: 143

Monthly change: up 2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

January 2014: $15.9 million

December 2013: $5.3 million

January 2013: $2.9 million

Monthly change: down 13.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 43.2 percent

Seven-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011

Seven-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012

Whatcom County foreclosures

January 2014: 28

December 2013: 16

January 2013: 59

Monthly change: up 75 percent

Year-over-year change: down 20 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Eight-year monthly low: 16, December 2013

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

February 2014: $222,000

January 2014: $251,750

February 2013: $233,500

Monthly change: down 11.8 percent

Year-over-year change: down 4.9 percent

Eight-year monthly high: $280,450, May 2007

Eight-year monthly low: $208,000, November 2011

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

February 2014: 269

January 2014: 300

February 2013: 355

Monthly change: down 10.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 24.3 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

February 2014: 41,533

January 2014: 39,245

February 2013: 48,523

Monthly change: up 5.8 percent

Year-over-year change: down 14.4 percent.

Eight-year monthly high: 61,402, March 2013

Eight-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010

Canadian dollar

End of February 2014: 90 cents

End of January 2014: 90 cents

End of February 2013: 97 cents

Eight-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Eight-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

January 2014: 1,129,744

December 2013: 1,323,265

January 2013: 1,109,276

Monthly change: down 14.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.8 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 1,786,840, August 2013

Eight-year monthly low: 645,792, October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

January 2014: $8.4 million

December 2013: $3.0 million

January 2013: $17.8 million

Monthly change: up 180 percent

Year-over-year change: down 52.8 percent

Eight-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009

Eight-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008

Ferndale building permit values

January 2014: $1.3 million

December 2013: $1.5 million

January 2013: $2.5 million

Monthly change: down 13.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 48 percent

Seven-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007

Seven-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009

Whatcom County construction jobs

December 2013: 5,200

November 2013: 5,700

December 2012: 5,700

Monthly change: down 5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 1.7 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006

Seven-year monthly low: 4,900, January 2013

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom December 2013: 6.4

Whatcom November 2013 (revised): 6 percent

Whatcom December 2012: 7.1

State November 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 6.6 percent

Nation November 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 6.7 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Seven-year monthly low: 3.7 percent, October 2007

Sources: Washington State Department of Revenue; U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Washington; Cross-Sell; Washington State Department of Licensing; Northwest Multiple Listing Service; Whatcom County Planning and Development Services; Bank of Canada; Port of Bellingham; RealtyTrac; Center For Economics and Business Research, Western Washington University; City of Bellingham; City of Ferndale; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Market Report runs each month.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at or call 715-2269.

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