Builder confidence up in January
The builder confidence index, released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo, rose one point to 19 last month, from a downwardly revised figure of 18 in December. The reading is on par with a figure of 19 in both October and December, the NAHB said.
“The HMI has held within a narrow two-point range for the past five months, indicating that builder views of housing market conditions essentially haven’t changed over that time,” said NAHB chief economist David Seiders. “Builders are anticipating a time when market conditions will support an upswing in building activity — most likely in the second half of 2008.”
The index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as either “good,” “fair” or “poor.”
Component indexes fell in line with the overall results, according to the report. The index gauging current single-family home sales remained unchanged at 19, and the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers rose one point to 14. The index gauging sales expectations for the next six months rose two points to 28.
Regionally, the HMI results were mixed in January. The Northeast posted no change at 20, while the Midwest reported a two-point gain to 17 and the South registered a three-point gain to 23. The West posted a five-point decline to an HMI reading of 13.
Canfor will take $256 million hit
Canadian forest products company Canfor has announced pre-tax write-downs of about $256 million, another sign of the difficulty faced in lumber markets of the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
The Vancouver-based company said the charges included $90 million related to its lumber segment, $141 million related to wood panels and $25 million to corporate and other related segments.
In December, the forest products company opted to close a Chetwynd, B.C.-based sawmill, laying off 188 employees. Canfor attributed the closure to poor lumber markets and the impact of a high Canadian dollar. Additionally, Canfor earlier laid off 300 workers at four sawmills in British Columbia.
Canfor will release fourth-quarter and fiscal 2007 results on Feb. 22.
National Retail Federation holds convention in NYC
New York The National Retail Federation (NRF) held its annual convention and expo this week in New York, with a variety of educational programs and numerous vendors focused on store design, logistics, HR management and other retail-related fields.
The event included a “Design Studio,” focused on store design and merchandising concepts. Guest speakers included Home Depot’s Jason Feldman, who discussed new store designs at the retailer, and Melissa Hertel of Lightolier, who spoke on sustainable lighting in a retail setting.
Hertel outlined tax deduction incentives for retailers who participate and use green lighting, as well as strategies to use environmentally friendly lighting fixtures in overall merchandising concepts, with the goal of using “sustainable lighting [that] meets users’ needs with the least consumption of energy and other resources.”
Further education sessions focused on supply chain and logistics, in-store marketing and “big ideas” in retailing. The latter included guests from Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and SAS.
The NRF event will be held through today at the Javits Center in New York.