Tuesday Trends sample: Asian trade rising, real estate mixed and KRM funding falling

Below is an excerpt from the most recent edition of WisBusiness Tuesday Trends. The full version of this weekly look at the state of Wisconsin business is now available for free to anyone who signs up for the Tuesday Trends mailing list. The full product includes several items in each of the rising, mixed and falling categories plus a look at upcoming business events across the state.

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RISING

Asian trade: Gov. Scott Walker welcomes a delegation from Taiwan to Madison as part of an effort to renew the 25 year-old sister-state relationship with the small island nation — and to secure billions for exports across the Pacific Ocean. Taiwanese officials sign two statements of intent to buy some $4 billion to $5 billion in corn and soybeans from six states — including Wisconsin — and Walker notes that Taiwan is the state’s top export partner for corn and No. 4 for soybeans. Ag exports to Taiwan from Wisconsin also rose 40 percent last year over 2009 levels, and Walker says he’s optimistic that growth will continue. Cranberry farmers in central Wisconsin are also optimistic about increasing demand for their crop in mainland China, welcoming a delegation of Chinese athletes from UW-Madison to a bog in Wood County. According to data from the Cranberry Marketing Committee, national exports of the crop to China grew from 14,000 in 2009 to more than 18,000 last year; Wisconsin remains the nation’s top producer of the fruit.

MIXED

Real estate: For the second straight month, Wisconsin’s existing home sales were up by a substantial margin, although the Wisconsin Realtors Association says these year-to-year comparisons are still being affected by last year’s federal tax credit. Home sales rose 31.1 percent in August compared to the same month last year; however median prices were down 7.3 percent to $139,000 over the same period, according to data released by the WRA. The Realtors association says year-to-year comparisons won’t be valid until at least the fourth quarter when sales are no longer distorted by last year’s federal program, but the chairman of the group’s board of directors says the numbers suggest that 2011 will be very similar to 2010 when all is said and done.

FALLING

KRM funding: Roughly $6 million in federal funding earmarked for the now-defunct Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail project will probably head out of state after federal officials reject appeals to keep the money here. At its final meeting, the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority had sought to use the funding for local bus systems, but Federal Transit Administration said the money was intended for a new rail project only. Following that decision, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission sought to use the funding for Milwaukee’s proposed streetcar project; that idea was rejected because the process to approve the streetcar line didn’t meet federal standards for the funding.