Apartment Rents Rising as Vacancies Drop

Morning Money Memo…

Rents are rising and apartment vacancy rates are falling across the country. The latest report by Reis, the real estate research firm, says the vacancy rate fell to just 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year - the lowest since 2001. The results offer little relief to renters, who have seen rents rise at a faster rate than wages or inflation. Landlords charged 3.2 percent more in 2013, but the increases were higher in some parts of the country.

"Demand for apartments remains strong," says the report. "There are a number of markets where rents continue to boom such as Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland-East Bay." The building slump during the housing crisis meant little new supply and put landlords in a stronger position, allowing them to charge more. As the construction industry recovers, Reis expects vacancies to increase slightly in 2014 while rents rise by about 3.3 percent, on par with last year.

Toyota has announced that a hydrogen-powered car which emits only water vapor as exhaust will go on sale in the US in 2015, one year earlier than it promised just two months ago. The Japanese automaker made the announcement at CES, the technology industry's annual gadget show in Las Vegas. The stepped-up schedule came months after rival automakers Hyundai and Honda both said they'd start selling hydrogen-powered cars next year.

A slow start to the New Year for the stock market. The S&P 500 has dropped three days in a row. But the averages are still close to a record high and futures rose this morning. Among the stocks to watch are Yahoo, whose CEO Marissa Meyer makes a keynote address at the CES show today in Vegas.

Oil prices slipped again after a week-long price drop. West Texas crude is below $94 a barrel. But natural gas prices rose with the deep cold weather boosting demand for heating.

Two Goodyear executives held captive by workers spent the night inside a factory in northern France that the company wants to close. The plant, which Goodyear has tried to sell or shutter for five years, has become a symbol of France's labor issues. The seizure of the two managers - the plant's director and human resources chief - resurrected the once-common practice of boss-napping. The Amiens plant has an especially contentious past. Goodyear's attempts to close it have been stalled by violent protests with tire bonfires, government concerns and France's prolonged layoff procedures.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow

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