Jan 6 (Reuters) - U.S. retail mall vacancies rose in the fourth quarter from the third, mainly due to the closure of some Sears Holdings Corp stores, according to real estate research firm Reis Inc.
Asking and effective rents for shopping centers increased slightly faster than the previous quarter, Reis said in a report on Tuesday.
Retail mall vacancies rose to 8 percent in the fourth quarter from 7.9 percent in the third quarter, marking the first quarterly increase since the third quarter of 2011, the company said.
Retailer Sears said in December it planned to close 235 stores in 2014, nearly double the projection of 130 made in August, in an attempt to return to profitability.
Asking and effective rents for shopping centers grew by 0.5 percent this quarter. Asking rent had risen 0.4 percent in the third quarter, while effective rents rose 0.5 percent.
"Demand continues to rebound from a weak 2013, though it also remains at relatively low levels... (This) provides more evidence that the recovery is not yet accelerating," Severino said.
The national vacancy rate for neighborhood and community shopping centers declined by 10 basis points to 10.2 percent during the fourth quarter, slightly improving from the third quarter, when the rate was unchanged.
Construction activity remained limited with only 1,752,000 square feet of new shopping center space completed during the fourth quarter. Shopping center space completed during the third quarter was 1,272,000 square feet.
Reis said accelerating pace of job creation, wage growth, and cheaper energy prices portend better times ahead.
"While we are still a number of years away from characterizing the retail real estate environment as 'strong', 2015 could certainly be a year of transition to a healthier market environment," Severino said.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)