Existing-home sales down in December
Existing-home sales declined 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units in December from a pace of 5 million units in November, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
These results, which followed several months of stable activity, also represented a 22 percent decline from the 6.27 million-unit level in December 2006.
The total of 5,652,000 existing home sales in 2007 was the fifth highest on record. However, this number was 12.8 percent below the 6,478,000 transactions recorded in 2006.
Existing-home sales include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
“Home sales remain weak despite improved affordability conditions in many parts of the country, but we could get a quick boost to the market if loan limits are raised in combination with the bold cut in the Fed funds rate,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
Regionally, the Northeast was hit the hardest, with existing-home sales dipping 4.6 percent to an annual rate of 830,000 (22.4 percent below a year ago). In the West, existing-home sales fell 2.1 percent to an annual rate of 940,000 (24.8 percent below December 2006). Existing-home sales in the Midwest declined 1.7 percent in December to a level of 1.16 million (20.5 percent below a year ago). And in the South, sales were down 1 percent to an annual pace of 1.97 million in December (down 20.9 percent from a year ago).
New professional group focuses on building products
The Construction Specifications Institute, an Alexandria, Va.-based organization of specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors and building material suppliers, has announced the formation of the Building Product Manufacturers Alliance (BPMA). This new group, which will meet for the first time on March 3 to 5 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, will share common issues, challenges and best practices to meet the needs of the changing marketplace.
“Today’s construction market increasingly calls for high-performance buildings, environmentally friendly materials and practices and technologically advanced components,” said Walter Marlowe, executive director and CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute.
The Construction Specifications Institute is a national organization dedicated to creating standards and formats to improve construction documents and project delivery. It has 146 chapters across the United States. For more information about the BPMA and its inaugural conference, visit www.csinet.org/bpma.
Sears Holdings unveils shake-up
Sears Holdings plans a major reorganization of its internal structure, moving toward an interconnected group of independent businesses with more autonomy than is currently in place.
“We are introducing an organizational structure that provides operating businesses with greater control, authority and autonomy,” read a statement from the parent of Sears and Kmart stores. The company said its various operating businesses will be given a “designated leader and an advisory group comprised of senior Sears Holdings executives to provide direction and oversee the business unit’s performance.”
Sears representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The move comes after the retailer announced weak holiday results and a melancholy outlook for the fourth quarter.
Earlier this month, Sears Holdings announced declines in comparable-store sales for both its Sears and Kmart stores for the nine-week holiday period ended Jan. 5 and offered sober guidance for the upcoming quarter.
Sears domestic saw a 2.8 percent decline during the months of November and December, while Kmart’s comparable-store sales declined 4.2 percent for the period. Total domestic comparable-store sales declined 3.5 percent for the nine-week period, the company said. The most notable declines occurred in the Sears apparel and tools categories and the Kmart seasonal categories.
The company attributed the declines to increased competition and the negative impact of unfavorable economic conditions.
Sears Holdings also announced its fourth-quarter projections. The company expects net income for the quarter to be in the range of $350 million to $470 million, or $2.59 to $3.48 per share — down from earlier analyst estimates of $4.43 per share.