Friday, September 28, 2007

Home Sales and Prices Fall Sharply - New York Times

Home Sales and Prices Fall Sharply - New York Times:

September 28, 2007
Home Sales and Prices Fall Sharply
Sales of new homes plunged in August to their slowest pace in more than seven years as tighter credit and rising inventories continued to weigh down the housing industry. The grim statistics could foreshadow further economic weakness in the fourth quarter, analysts said.

New-home purchases fell to an annual pace of 795,000, an 8.3 percent decline from July, as the number of months needed to sell off builders’ inventories rose to the highest level since March, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

The median price for a new home was down 7.5 percent from a year earlier, to $225,700, the steepest monthly price drop since December 1970.

The sales figures were released as KB Home, a large Los Angeles builder, reported a $35.6 million loss in its fiscal third quarter, or 46 cents a share, in contrast to a profit of $153.2 million, or $1.90 a share, in the period a year earlier. KB Home had a 32 percent drop in revenue, to $1.54 billion.

The latest data gave a fuller picture of the distress in housing-related industries, where the subprime mortgage crisis has led to turmoil in the broader credit market and to increases in foreclosures. On Tuesday, the National Association of Realtors reported a 4.3 percent drop in August in sales of existing homes, and another large home builder, Lennar, recorded the largest quarterly loss in its history.

Last month’s drop-off in new-home sales was focused primarily in the South and the West, areas particularly hurt by subprime-lending problems. The seasonally adjusted pace of new-home sales is now down more than 21 percent from last year." MORE

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Small donors rewrite fundraising handbook - Print View

Small donors rewrite fundraising handbook - : "Small donors rewrite fundraising handbook By: Jeanne Cummings September 26, 2007 09:57 AM EST KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a table near The Cashew’s upstairs bar, Nicola Heskett is laying out an array of pens and donor information forms as Jason Moehlman strolls in, still sweaty from the muggy evening’s air.

He slaps down a $20 bill to cover the recommended contribution for the Kansas City Lawyers for Barack Obama Happy Hour. “Uh, would you mind using your credit card? I think it’s a little cleaner,” says Heskett, 36, a first-time, small-time bundler for Obama who is helping to rewrite political fundraising playbooks this cycle.

The rise of the baby bundlers — people who ask friends and family to donate for a candidate and then direct the money to the campaign — is adding a face-to-face dimension to tactics used in 2004 to spur an explosion of Internet donations.

The influx of these new players, combined with unorthodox appeals by the candidates, also is fundamentally reshaping the parties’ donor bases."

Economic News 9-26-2007

Durable goods orders fell 4.9% in August to reverse most of July's 6.1% gain. The sharp decline was led by a plunge in civilian aircraft orders. Orders for motor vehicles were also weak. Excluding the transportation sector durable goods orders fell 1.8%, still weak as demand for big ticket items was upset by financial market turmoil and labor market weakness in August. However, unfilled orders have been rising strongly; suggesting capital spending will increase this quarter.

The MBA mortgage applications index fell 2.8% to 654.2% for the week that ended September 21. The purchase index fell 7.3% on the week while refinance application increase 3.3%. The slight uptick in mortgage rates last week dampened purchase activity with many buyers possibly holding off until the Fed rate cuts pass through to longer term rates. Refinancing is holding up because of the high number of mortgagors encountering resets.

The Treasury's auction of $18 billion in 2-year notes was met with strong demand today. The notes received a high yield of 4.000% and garnered a 3.29 bid-to-cover ratio. Indirect bidders, which includes foreign central banks accounted for a strong 36% of the accepted bids. Treasuries reversed early losses after the strong auction results, to end little changed on the day. The 10-year note was up 1/32 to 100-31/32 to yield 4.62%.

Weak economic data today increased the chances of more fed rate cuts this year. Fed funds futures traders are pricing in an 86% chance for a quarter point rate cut in October and are pricing in a 64% chance of one in December. More data on tap this week will continue to shape the interest rate outlook. New home sales and the final print of Q2 GDP are due out Thursday and personal income, which includes a key inflation gauge, construction spending and consumer sentiment, will be out on Friday. The data will likely confirm housing's drag on economic growth and still subdued inflationary pressures.

John Cherry
Parkview One
925 North Point Parkway, Suite 400
Alpharetta, GA 30005

Monday, September 17, 2007 / World - Greenspan alert on US house prices / World - Greenspan alert on US house prices

US house prices are likely to fall significantly from their present levels, Alan Greenspan has told the Financial Times, admitting that there was a bubble in the US housing market.

In an interview ahead of the release on Monday of his widely-anticipated memoirs, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve said the decline in house prices “is going to be larger than most people expect”.

But Mr Greenspan said that his successors at the Fed – who meet on Tuesday to set interest rates – would have to be careful not to ease rates too aggressively, because the risk of an “inflationary resurgence” was greater now than when he was Fed chief.

Mr Greenspan said he would expect “as a minimum, large single-digit” percentage declines in US house prices from peak to trough and added that he would not be surprised if the fall was “in double digits”.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Greenspan Blasts Bush

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan "says the Republican party to which he has belonged all his life deserved to lose power last year for forsaking its small-government principles," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Greenspan delivers the withering critique in his memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World."

"In the book, scheduled for public release Monday, Greenspan writes that he advised the White House to veto some bills to curb 'out of control' spending while the Republicans controlled Congress. He says President Bush's failure to do so 'was a major mistake.' Republicans in Congress, he writes, 'swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose.'"

According to Bloomberg, Greenspan rips Bush "for pursuing an economic agenda driven by politics rather than sound policy, with little concern for future consequences."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Google Sponsors $30 Million Moon Contest

Google Sponsors $30 Million Moon Contest

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google Inc. is bankrolling a $30 million spaceflight contest for private companies to safely land a robotic rover on the moon and beam back a gigabyte of images and video to Earth, the Internet search leader said Thursday.

The grand prize could be worth up to $25 million.

If the competition produces a winner, it would prove a major boon to the emerging private spaceflight industry and mark the first time that a nongovernment entity has flown a lunar space probe.

Google partnered with the X Prize Foundation for the moon challenge, which is open to companies around the world. The Santa Monica-based nonprofit prize institute is best known for hosting the Ansari X Prize contest that led to the first manned private spaceflight in 2004.
The race to the moon won't be easy or cheap. Teams have to raise money to build a roaming spacecraft that will be tough enough to survive a landing and have the smarts to complete a set of tasks. Each rover must also be equipped with high-definition video and still cameras to document the journey.

The rules call for a spacecraft to trek at least 1,312 feet across the lunar surface and return a package of data including self-portraits, panoramic views and near-real time videos. Participants are also responsible for securing a launch vehicle for the probe, either by building it themselves or contracting with an existing rocket company.

Whoever accomplishes the feat by the end of 2012 will receive $20 million. If there is no winner, the purse will drop to $15 million until the end of 2014 when the contest expires. There is also a $5 million second-place prize and $5 million in bonus money to teams that go beyond the minimum requirements.

Details of the Google X Prize are to be revealed at the WIRED NextFest technology show in Los Angeles.

The competition comes at a time of revived interest in lunar exploration among foreign governments since the Cold War space race. Governments including the United States and those in Europe and Asia are gearing up to return to the moon.

Japan's space agency, JAXA, plans to launch its long-delayed orbiter SELENE from a remote Pacific Island on Friday. NASA next year will rocket a lunar orbiter and impactor, the first of several lunar robotic projects before astronauts are sent to the moon next decade.

Government lunar missions can cost upward of hundreds of millions of dollars, but the X Prize Foundation and Google hope the private sector can do it for considerably less.

The partnership between Google and the X Prize Foundation comes as no surprise. Earlier this year, Google co-founder Larry Page hosted a star-studded charity auction for the foundation at the company's Mountain View headquarters. Page is a trustee of the X Prize Foundation.
Google has had previous forays into space albeit via the Internet by launching Google Mars and Google Earth, Web browser-based mapping tools that give users an up-close, interactive view with the click of a mouse.

The X Prize Foundation is also holding competitions in rapid genetic decoding and creating super-efficient vehicles, but the moon prize is by far the largest in its history since it was founded in 1995. The Google X Prize is second richest space prize, next to the $50 million pot being dangled by hotel magnate Robert Bigelow to any American team that can rocket a manned spacecraft into orbit by 2010.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Election Results

It is Sunny - Go Vote

The clouds have parted, the sun is shining, the temperature is pleasant, so you have no excuse not to get out and vote.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Inventory of Homes Pushes Nashville to a Buyers Market

The Greater Nashville Assocaition of Realtors reports today that the inventory of homes exceeds a six month supply, 6.6 months to be exact. Any thing under six months is considered a sellers market. This is the first time in at least 7 years that the August inventory exceeds a six month supply, or a considered a buyers market.

There were 3,359 home closings reported for the month of August, according to figures provided by the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors®. This represents a decrease of 10.9 percent from the 3,772 closings reported for the same period last year.

Year-to-date closings for the Greater Nashville area are 24,778, down 9.2 percent compared to the 27,294 closings reported through mid-year 2006.

A comparison of sales by category for August is:

Closings - Residential - Aug. 2006 - 3,772

Closings - Residential - Aug. 2007 - 3,359

Closings - Condominium - Aug. 2006 - 3,036

Closings - Condominium - Aug. 2007 - 2,643

There were 2,896 sales pending at the end of August, compared with 3,440 sales that were pending at the same time last year. The median residential price during August was$189,719 and for a condominium it was $162,346. That compares with median residential and condominium prices at this time last year of $184,000 and $140,000 respectively. The average number of days on the market for a single-family residence was 64 days. Inventory at the end of August was 22,396. That compares with an inventory of 16,670 at the end of August 2006.

"Available inventory is considerably higher than last year at this time. That means buyers have more choices, so price and condition of properties for sale have become increasingly important," Richard Courtney said. "Based on the number of homes sold in August, the inventory represents about a 6.6 month supply, which is a reasonable balance in the housing industry. "