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Decision Analyst index slips

BY Ken Clark

Arlington, Texas-based Decision Analyst, a market research firm, reported that its U.S. Economic Index fell from a reading of 101 in January 2013 to 99 in February 2013.

While the overall trend of the Economic Index has been upwards over the past 16 months, suggesting continued economic growth in the United States, the February downturn raises a red flag, especially on the heels of increased Social Security deductions and rising gasoline prices, plus the impact of sequestration, according to the firm. “February could just be a downward blip, or the start of a more serious downturn,” the company wrote. “It will take three or four additional months to know for sure.”

The West South Central Census Division records the highest Economic Index, with a score of 105. The East South Central Census Division has the lowest Economic Index at 95 (see map).

The Index numbers for the Census Divisions are three-month moving averages, to smooth out fluctuations due to smaller sample sizes. The reported Index number averages the current month with the previous two months.

“The U.S. economy could be poised for expansion in 2013, on the other hand, if the price of oil falls below $85 a barrel; if natural gas prices remain below $4 a thousand cubic feet; if Washington, D.C., can address and resolve major budget and spending issues; and if major corporations can climb out of their foxholes and start investing,” said Jerry Thomas, president/CEO of Decision Analyst. “Risks of economic contraction remain high, given all these ‘ifs’ and the developing recession in Europe.”

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Russin Lumber adds to outside sales team

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Montgomery, N.Y.-based LBM distributor Russin Lumber hired Larry Caron in the position of territory manager for the Eastern Pennsylvania market.

The company’s veteran sales manager Jim Speros will continue to work in the territory, which Russin Lumber believes is “poised to take off” because of the housing recovery.

“We were extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to bring Larry Caron into our team,” said Jordan Russin, VP for the company. “By adding the strong relationships that Larry has to a large territory that Jim Speros has managed so well, we will be bringing our customers a deeper level of support than any other supplier in the market.”

Russin Lumber is a distributor of building materials covering 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The company owns and operates manufacturing and distribution facilities in Montgomery, N.Y.

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Industry applauds reform effort for lead paint rule

BY Ken Clark

The Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2013 was introduced in the senate Wednesday night — a step toward easing the burden on lumberyards. 

Legislation was introduced last night in the U.S. Senate that would reform the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule.

This bill would reduce the burden the rule has placed on lumber and building material (LBM) dealers in the home retrofit market, and also protect pregnant women and small children from lead hazards. The Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 484) was introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and six cosponsors. NLBMDA has sought re-introduction of this reform bill in the Senate following the introduction of a similar Senate bill in 2012 that expired with the last session of congress. 

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) was one of the groups applauding the move. 

"Over the last several years of the housing industry downturn, the remodeling and retrofit market has been a key source of business for LBM dealers, either through their installed sales operations, serving remodelers, or both," said NLBMDA chairman Chuck Bankston, president of Bankston Lumber in Barnesville, Ga. "While we support the goal of protecting pregnant women and small children from lead hazards, EPA’s effort to expand the Lead Rule beyond its original intent, its aggressive pursuit of paperwork violations, and its failure to approve a lead test kit meeting its own rule has been an extreme burden on a residential market that is just starting to recover from the recession. We commend Senator Inhofe for his continuing leadership on this issue and will make the legislation a focus of our upcoming Legislative Conference in Washington." 

In July 2010, the EPA removed the "opt-out provision" from the LRRP rule, which granted homeowners the right to forego the use of rigorous LRRP work practices if pregnant women or children under six did not live in the home. The LRRP rule requires that renovation work disturbing more than six interior square feet and work replacing doors or window in a pre-1978 home to follow burdensome and costly work practices. These projects must also be supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and be performed by an EPA-certified construction company.

EPA more than doubled the number of homes subject to the LRRP Rule by dropping the opt-out provision, and the EPA has estimated that their amendment adds more than $336 million per year in compliance costs to the regulated community, which includes homeowners.

In addition, despite EPA stating a commercially available test kit producing no more than 10% false positives would be on the market when the rule took effect in 2010, no test kit on the market meets this standard. The lack of EPA-approved test kits meeting the rule’s standard for false positives has added millions in compliance costs with consumers paying for unnecessary work because of false positive test results. 

Among its key provisions, S. 484 would restore the "opt-out" clause, suspend the rule for owner-occupied housing built between 1960 and 1978 when a small child or pregnant woman does not live in the home (if EPA cannot approve a test kit meeting its own standard for false positives), prohibit expansion of the rule to commercial buildings until EPA conducts a study demonstrating the need for such action, and provide a de minimis exemption for first-time paperwork violations.

In addition to Senator Inhofe, the original cosponsors of S. 484 are Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and David Vitter (R-La.). NLBMDA has made passage of S. 484 a top legislative priority.

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