THE TIMES BOARD OF ECONOMISTS: Sector by sector
The steel industry got a boost from strong car sales in 2013, which hopefully should continue into this year, said Susan Zlajic, manager of government affairs at ArcelorMittal USA Inc.
South Shore ridership declined slightly in 2013, but increases in peak ridership in each of the three last months of the year have the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District hopeful for a better 2014.
In agriculture, trends are key. Farmers keep an eye on them to make informed decisions about what to plant, how to plant it, how much to spend and other factors, Porter County farmer Tim Stoner said.
Local media companies continue to look for more ways to engage their audience, with 2014 revenue forecasts providing some comfort there will be opportunities for expansion.
Automakers sold about 15.6 million cars last year, the highest number since 2007, when 16.1 million units were sold.
Manufacturing has been doing fairly well, and should see continued strength going into 2014, Berlin Metals president Roy Berlin said.
Uncertainty continues to haunt the restaurant industry, which finds itself facing the sweeping changes mandated by Obamacare and following carefully the national debate on the minimum wage.
With shovel-ready sites and expansion of some existing businesses, Porter County is poised for increased development in the coming months.
Gas prices fell to their lowest monthly average last year in November, and are expected to continue to decline.
There are three buckets of money coming out of Lake County's new income tax, and one will lead to deep property tax cuts for many residents.
The banking sector remains strong despite in dip in mortgage activity and a wave of consolidations, a Northwest Indiana banker said.
The severely cold winter weather will drive heating bills higher, but moderate natural gas prices should prevent a return to the skyrocketing bills seen from 2005 through 2009.
Higher education is going through a push-and-pull with attendance and funding.
Builders are again constructing new homes in Northwest Indiana and buyers are coming back, driven by many of the same forces propelling the existing-home market forward.
Gaming companies are taking a close look at the loyalty promoted by their brick-and-mortar casinos, while seeing how the advent of online gaming can also benefit those operations.
Investors had reason to celebrate, as last year U.S. stocks posted their best year since 1997.
Stack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson said grocery stores have been doing well, but depend on a healthy economy.
Small retailers are beginning to feel like it's 2013 all over again, as well as the year before that and the year before that.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, continues to be the dominant variable in the health care industry, locally and nationwide.
The end of the $3.8 billion BP Whiting Refinery expansion project has cut total construction work hours in the region, but a blossoming of commercial work and other types is filling in the gaps.
The economy is recovering, but the wealth that has been generated is not being shared widely, a local labor leader said.
Although off to a slow start in 2014, the retail industry is expecting to see a strong first six months.
Locally, consumer spending saw a slight increase in the fourth quarter of 2013.
One of the biggest challenges facing the local world of entertainment is discounting.
A Hammond service center, which is one of the largest distributors of tin mill and coated steel products, is starting to see 5 to 6 percent increases in sales.
Interest rates remain low, making it an ideal time for businesses to borrow money to expand or acquire other companies, said Horizon Bank executive vice president David Rose.
Heavy snowfall and bone-chilling cold hampered auto sales in January and February, but sales are still strong, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group, which operates Chevrolet dealerships in Hammond and Lowell.
Demand for steel was relatively flat in the United States in 2013, but AcrelorMittal is expecting a 4 percent increase in demand and shipments this year.
The stock market had an incredible year last year and started 2014 with a bang, said Mark Ennes, a wealth management adviser for the Merrill Lynch's Merrillville office.
The grocery industry is prospering, even though the greater Chicago market is crowded with competition, Strack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson said.
The fuel business is holding steady after rebounding from a slow start.
The grocery industry is doing well, but Strack and Van Til stores are faring better in South Lake County, where the unemployment is lower than it is in the northern cities or Illinois.
Auto sales have been pretty good as Chevrolet continues its run as the top-selling vehicle brand in Chicagoland, said Tim Roper, owner of Smith Motors Auto Group, which operates Chevrolet dealerships in Hammond and Lowell.
Stock prices have been hitting all-time highs despite global uncertainties, said Mark Ennes, a wealth management adviser for the Merrill Lynch's Merrillville office.
An overabundance of supply caused West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil and Gasoline prices to fall over the last three months.
Manufacturing continues the slow, steady improvement that has characterized the sector over the last few years, Berlin Metals President Boy Berlin said.
Things are looking up for steelmakers after a rough patch during the economic downturn and a winter weather-chilled first quarter.
The economy came out of its winter hibernation during the second quarter as consumer confidence reached the highest point since 2007, Horizon Bank Executive Vice President David Rose said.