7 South Florida Professionals Weigh In On 2014 Outlook

, Daily Business Review

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Francisco Cerezo
Francisco Cerezo

South Florida's economy is likely to continue growing at a gradual pace in 2014 despite a widely anticipated increase in interest rates as the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy. That is the general view of seven South Florida professionals with a diversity of expertise in commercial banking, capital markets, law, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, technology-based business development and wealth management.

Daily Business Review interviews with these professionals suggest, among other 2014 scenarios, that a stronger U.S. economy will give the South Florida economy a lift, that the area will remain fertile for innovative technology companies, and that home construction will be a contributor to the area's economic momentum.

South Florida's unemployment rate dipped to 6.3 percent in November, the lowest in five years, thanks to a combination of increased job creation and reduced participation in the labor force. The last time the area's jobless rate was under 7 percent was in September 2008, the same month investment banking firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, freezing inter-bank lending worldwide, deepening an economic recession in the United States, and paving the way for regulatory reform of the banking industry.

Year to date through October, the number of South Floridians in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties with full-time jobs increased by almost 20,000. The number of South Floridians who are unemployed and actively seeking work declined by about 32,700 during the first 10 months of the year. The area's total labor force, including the number of South Floridians who are employed plus those actively seeking employment, declined about 26,000 during the January-October period. In October, area industries that had the fastest growth in employment over the previous 12 months were leisure and hospitality (3.6 percent), trade and transportation (3.3 percent) and professional and business services (2.2 percent). Employment declined year over year in construction (-1.8 percent), government (-0.7 percent) and manufacturing (-0.4 percent).

Francisco J. Cerezo,
Law firm Latin America practice leader

The pace of economic growth has slowed in Brazil but probably will remain solid there and in much of Latin America next year, said Cerezo, a partner in the Miami office of the law firm Foley & Lardner.

Cerezo, chair of the Latin America practice and co-chair of the international practice at Foley & Lardner, expects the region overall to sustain solid economic growth next year, supplying stimulus to South Florida.

"I continue to be bullish on Latin America and how Miami is benefiting from it," said Cerezo, who represents wealthy Latin American families and U.S. companies that invest in Latin America. "Miami just increasingly continues to be a center for economic activity with ties to Latin America."

He said foreign direct investment in buildings, machines and other business assets in Brazil has decelerated, putting a drag on the pace of economic growth in South America's largest nation. The pause may have been inevitable, though.

In recent years, "you had companies rushing into Brazil. Well, at some point, they've already rushed in. At some point, there's got to be a tapering off," Cerezo said. "That certainly impacts us here in South Florida. There has been a lot of Brazilian activity in South Florida ... It'll have a trickle-down effect [on] us."

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