Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fannie Mae $2 billion in red for 2007

Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) reports a $2.1 billion loss for 2007, which represents a $6 billion swing from 2006's net income of $4.1 billion.
"We are working through the toughest housing and mortgage markets in a generation," said President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Mudd. "While we are pleased that demand for our mortgage guaranty businesses has surged as we respond to the market’s urgent need for liquidity and stability, this positive trend has been far outweighed by the negative financial impacts of rising mortgage defaults, falling home prices, and extraordinary disruptions in the credit markets."

January New Home Sales Drop 34%

Sales of new homes in January dropped 33.9% from the same month last year to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 588,000 units, according to the Census Bureau. The rate was 2.8% below December's pace.
The median sales price of a new home was $216,000, 15.1% below the median price reported in January, 2007, and 4.3% below December's median. There were 9.9 months' worth of new homes built and unsold in January, up from 7.2 months' worth in January of last year.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Told the Photographer, 'Be Sure and Get My Good Side'

Yr humble correspondent discusses the 2008 Kitchen/Bath Industry Outlook with the Northern California Chapter of NKBA at the beautiful Integrated Resources Group showroom in Brisbane, CA.

January Foreclosures Up 57%

About 233,000 properties were foreclosed upon in January, according to RealtyTrac, up almost 57% from the same month last year. The number was 8% higher than December levels.
“January’s foreclosure numbers demonstrate that foreclosure activity is continuing on its upward trend, substantially increasing from a year ago in many states,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

February Consumer Confidence Index Down 12 points

The Conference Board's monthly Consumer Confidence Index fell to 75 (1985 = 100) in February, down 12 points from January levels and down 32.6% from February, 2007.
Says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, "The weakening in consumers' assessment of current conditions, fueled by a combination of less favorable business conditions and a sharp rise in the number of consumers saying jobs are hard to get, suggests that the pace of growth in early 2008 has slowed even further. Consumers' expectations have also deteriorated significantly and are now at a seventeen-year low."

Home Prices Dipped 9% in Fourth Quarter, 2007

Existing single family home prices around the country dipped 8.9% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index. It was the largest decline in the measure's 20-year history.

Scenes From the Mortgage Crisis, Part Two

Bloomberg reports that banks may lose as much as $2.1 trillion in mortgages, because they've lost or never received the paperwork that proves the mortgages belong to them. "'Loans were mass produced and short cuts were taken,' (assistant professor at Valparaiso University School of Law in Valparaiso, IN Alan) White said. ``A lot of the paperwork is done in the name of the original lender and a lot of the original lenders aren't around anymore.'
More than 100 mortgage companies stopped making loans, closed or were sold last year, according to Bloomberg data."
Judges in at least five states have stopped foreclosure proceedings due to missing paperwork.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lowe's Fiscal Year Sales Up 3%

Sales for Lowe's Corp. during the fiscal year ended February 1 were up 2.9% over the previous fiscal year to $48.3 billion. However, sales for its fourth fiscal quarter dipped 0.3% to $10.4 billion.
The Calculated Risk blog notes that the North Carolina-based chain's same store sales dipped4% year-over-year in November, 9% in December, and 11% during January.

January Existing Home Sales Down 23%

The National Association of Realtors remarks that January's existing home sales "slip"ped 23.4% from the same month in 2007 to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.89 million units, the lowest pace in more than a decade. Single family existing home sales were down 22.4% to a rate of 4.34 million units. Master of understatement Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said many potential buyers remain on the sidelines.
Median sales price of an existing single family home in January fell 5.1% from the same month in 2007 to $198,700, and median price for all existing homes was down 4.6% year-to-year to $201,100. The inventory of unsold houses increased from 9.7 months worth in December to 10.3 months in January.

Scenes From the Mortgage Crisis, Part One

The Chicago Tribune finds that a home in Chicago that Countrywide mortgaged TWICE for a total of $450,000 and then foreclosed upon and resold somehow managed to change hands three times without anyone noticing that the home's owner (who did not sell the home) and his dog were both lying dead inside. The bodies may have been there since 2006.
Countrywide chairman Angelo Mozilo paid himself a bonus of $36.4 million earlier this year for the job he did running the company; the bonus had been double that initially, but public outcry caused him to scale back.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Construction Wages Dip 2% in January

Weekly wages for construction workers in January averaged $717.80, down 1.9% than average wages during December, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure was 3.1% over average weekly wages for construction workers in January, 2007.
Hourly construction wages averaged $21.18, down 0.7% from December.
Weekly wages for all workers dipped 2.2% in January from December to an average $592.74.
The BLS also announced that the Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% in January from the previous month, and is now 4.3% higher than in January, 2007.

January Starts Drop to Lowest Level Since 1991

Housing starts in January dipped to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of just over 1 million units, 27.9% under the rate for January, 2007, according to the most recent figures from the Census Bureau. The single family start rate was down 33.8% from the same month last year to an annualized pace of 743,000 units.
The permit rate was down 33.1% below January, 2007, to almost 1.05 million units, with the single family permit rate down 40.3% to 673,000 units.

Guilty Even After Proven Innocent

Did everybody but me know this was going on? The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a Home Depot customer being pursued for $6,000 in damages by the chain for being falsely accused of shoplifting an item assessed a thousand dollars higher than its actual price through a clerical error. And evidently, this is part of a common practice.
To quote the Journal: "The chain's letters to suspected shoplifters are sent out by a Florida law firm called Palmer Reifler & Associates, which also handles the task for four dozen other clients, from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Walgreen Co., keeping 13% to 30% of what it collects. A partner at the law firm has said that it sends out about 1.2 million civil-recovery demand letters a year but follows up by suing fewer than 10 times a year.
Leading people to fear a suit when none is likely makes civil recovery a kind of "shakedown," contends Walter Hanstein III, a Maine lawyer who complained about Palmer Reifler to the Florida bar association last year. "

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

January Kitchen Appliance Shipments Dip 14%

Some 2.5 million kitchen appliances were shipped in January, down 13.7% from the same month last year, acording to the most recent figures from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Electric cooking appliances dipped 11.1% to 328,000 units shipped, while gas coooking appliances slipped 10.8% to 187,300 units. Microwave ovens and ranges fell 18.8% from January, 2007, to 671,400 units shipped.
Gas and electric range shipments in January dipped 11.8% to 400,900 units shipped. Gas and electric cooktops were down 6.5% to 60,200 units, and gas and electric wall ovens slipped 10.0% to 54,100 units shipped.
Refrigerators were down 8.8% for the month to 513,700 units, dishwashers down 7.4% to 399,600 units, disposers down 19.4% to 403,100 units, and compactors down 20.0% to 5,600 units shipped.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Quality Goes In Before the Name Goes On...

Archaeologist David Wengrow has discovered that brand marketing began around 4,000 BC.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Masco Sales Fell 7% in 2007

Masco Corp. reports its sales in 2007 declined 7% to $11.8 billion compared with $12.7 billion for 2006. North American sales declined 12% and international sales increased 15%. Cabinet sales fell 14%, but plumbing product sales increased 5%. Masco expects 2008 to cause a drop in consumer spending for home improvement products.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Can It Core a Apple?

Forbes looks at the kitchen gadgets of the future.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bond Guru Fears 20% Housing Price Drop

Interesting reading from U.S. News & World Report, as Bill Gross of Pimco calls for government subsidies on mortgages.

Monday, February 4, 2008

January Residential Construction Employment Down 1%

Residential construction employment dipped 1.1% from December to January, 2008, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some 892,100 workers were employed building residential construction last month, down 9.2% from January 2007.
Average hourly wages for construction workers were up 0.2% month-to-month to $21.46; that mark was 4.3% higher than January, 2007's average hourly salary for construction workers.