THE TIMES BOARD OF ECONOMISTS: Sector by sector

STEEL: Shipments strong to auto, appliance industries

STEEL: Shipments strong to auto, appliance industries

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.

TRANSPORTATION: South Shore ends year strong

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.

AGRICULTURE: Corn, soy prices down; food purchasing up

AGRICULTURE: Corn, soy prices down; food purchasing up

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.

MEDIA: 2014 a year to charge forward

MEDIA: 2014 a year to charge forward

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.

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales hit their highest point since 2007 last year

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales hit their highest point since 2007 last year

Automakers sold about 15.6 million cars last year, the highest number since 2007, when 16.1 million units were sold.

MANUFACTURING: Factories expect to see more growth in 2014

MANUFACTURING: Factories expect to see more growth in 2014

Manufacturing has been doing fairly well, and should see continued strength going into 2014, Berlin Metals president Roy Berlin said.

RESTAURANTS: Obamacare, minimum wage could be one-two punch

RESTAURANTS: Obamacare, minimum wage could be one-two punch

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.

COMMERCE: Business interest in Porter County increases

COMMERCE: Business interest in Porter County increases

With shovel-ready sites and expansion of some existing businesses, Porter County is poised for increased development in the coming months.

FUEL: Gas prices falling, but Luke Oil expanding

FUEL: Gas prices falling, but Luke Oil expanding

Gas prices fell to their lowest monthly average last year in November, and are expected to continue to decline.

GOVERNMENT: Tax break will flow to property owners

GOVERNMENT: Tax break will flow to property owners

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.

BANKING: Banks doing well despite decline in refinancing

BANKING: Banks doing well despite decline in refinancing

The banking sector remains strong despite in dip in mortgage activity and a wave of consolidations, a Northwest Indiana banker said.

UTILITIES: Severe winter will hike heating bills

UTILITIES: Severe winter will hike heating bills

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.

EDUCATION: Enrollment up, funding down in higher ed

EDUCATION: Enrollment up, funding down in higher ed

Higher education is going through a push-and-pull with attendance and funding.

REAL ESTATE: New construction makes a comeback

REAL ESTATE: New construction makes a comeback

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: Online gaming creates casino buzz

GAMING: Online gaming creates casino buzz

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.

INVESTMENTS: U.S. stocks delivered best returns in more than a decade

INVESTMENTS: U.S. stocks delivered best returns in more than a decade

Investors had reason to celebrate, as last year U.S. stocks posted their best year since 1997.

GROCERY: Northwest Indiana market stable, but Illinois shoppers more demanding

GROCERY: Northwest Indiana market stable, but Illinois shoppers more demanding

Stack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson said grocery stores have been doing well, but depend on a healthy economy.

SMALL RETAIL: Still waiting for that breakout year

SMALL RETAIL: Still waiting for that breakout year

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.

HEALTH CARE: Health care sector softened in 2013

HEALTH CARE: Health care sector softened in 2013

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, continues to be the dominant variable in the health care industry, locally and nationwide.

CONSTRUCTION: BP project over, contractors adjust

CONSTRUCTION: BP project over, contractors adjust

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.

LABOR: Workers missing out on economic gains

LABOR: Workers missing out on economic gains

The economy is recovering, but the wealth that has been generated is not being shared widely, a local labor leader said.

RETAIL: Weather slows January sales; forecast looks good

RETAIL: Weather slows January sales; forecast looks good

Although off to a slow start in 2014, the retail industry is expecting to see a strong first six months.

CONSUMERS: Fourth quarter brings consumer spending increase

CONSUMERS: Fourth quarter brings consumer spending increase

Locally, consumer spending saw a slight increase in the fourth quarter of 2013.

ENTERTAINMENT: Discounting trend frustrates industry

ENTERTAINMENT: Discounting trend frustrates industry

One of the biggest challenges facing the local world of entertainment is discounting.

MANUFACTURING: Shipments rising despite weather, logistical challenges

MANUFACTURING: Shipments rising despite weather, logistical challenges

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. 

BANKING: Interest rates remain low, but are bound to rise

BANKING: Interest rates remain low, but are bound to rise

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.

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales up despite recalls

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales up despite recalls

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.

STEEL: Automotive sales, construction key for steel industry

STEEL: Automotive sales, construction key for steel industry

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.

INVESTMENTS: Markets holding up well, expected to grow

INVESTMENTS: Markets holding up well, expected to grow

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.

GROCERY: Industry doing well in spite of increased competition

GROCERY: Industry doing well in spite of increased competition

The grocery industry is prospering, even though the greater Chicago market is crowded with competition, Strack & Van Til president Dave Wilkinson said. 

FUEL: Gas business steady, but all eyes on Ukraine

FUEL: Gas business steady, but all eyes on Ukraine

The fuel business is holding steady after rebounding from a slow start.

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