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Existing-home sales show gains in February

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Existing-home sales, including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units in February from a pace of 4.89 million in January, according to the National Association of Realtors, a “notable gain” after several months of dropping numbers.

Sales remained 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million-unit level in February 2007.

“We’re not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 11.3 percent to an annual pace of 890,000, but are 26.4 percent below February 2007. In the Midwest, sales rose 2.5 percent to a level of 1.24 million, but are 19.5 percent below a year ago. In the South, sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million, a 22 percent decline from February 2007. And in the West, sales slipped 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 920,000, 29.2 percent below a year ago.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $195,900 in February, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier when the median was $213,500.

Half of the metro areas in the United States experienced price increases, with healthy gains in markets like Oklahoma City and Trenton, N.J. In other areas, such as Sacramento, a rapid price decline has induced buyers to come into the market, and sales are now rising, Yun said.

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Wal-Mart to recycle tires into mulch

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart stores announced it will be recycling used tires into rubber mulch, which it will make available in its Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores this week.

The retailer will recycle approximately 2.5 million tires in 2008 to manufacture the eco-friendly Majestic rubber mulch mini nuggets, which the company said is ideal for landscaping and covering play grounds, pools and pond areas.

“We know consumers want to make the most of their time at home this spring and summer, and we want to provide them with product offerings that help create a safe outdoor family environment at the best value,” said Andy Barron, senior vp and general merchandise manager for Wal-Mart. “Our process of recycling millions of used tires into rubber mulch products is yet another way to help our customers live better while also helping the environment.”

The company said the Majestic rubber mulch joins rubber garden edging and tree rings already available at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club — all made from 100 percent recycled tire rubber. In addition, gardeners can find environmentally safer pesticides and plants in biodegradable pots.

Forest Stewardship Council-certified Home Trends outdoor furniture pieces as well as solar powered outdoor lighting will also be available at Wal-Mart and SamOs Clubs this spring.

Wal-mart said the new recycled products are another step in the company’s ongoing commitments to reaching its zero-waste goal and providing access to affordable eco-friendly products.

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Stock Building Supply reports loss in half-year results

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Stock Building Supply, the second largest pro dealer in the United States, reported $89 million in losses for the six-month period ended Jan. 31. This compares to profits of $81 million for the same period a year ago.

Revenues were reported at $1.79 billion, down 25.7 percent from sales of $2.4 billion during the comparable period last year.

As part of cost-cutting moves by parent company Wolseley, Stock closed 22 branches during the six-month period, ending with 286 locations. In July 2007, the pro dealer operated 308 outlets. Stock also reduced its head count during the period by 1,750.

Ferguson, also owned by U.K.-based Wolseley, turned in a stronger performance, with revenues rising 3.2 percent to $5.5 billion. Profits were up by 4.9 percent to $350 million. In response to the slowing residential market in the first half of its fiscal year, Ferguson reduced its head count by 1,575, approximately 6 percent of its total employees.

Revenues for Wolseley Canada increased by 3.7 percent to C$684 million. Profits were lower, however, with a 15 percent drop, from C$41 million a year ago to C$35 million in the current period.

Overall, Wolseley’s revenues increased 2 percent to approximately $15.8 billion during the six-month period. But profits dropped 23 percent to approximately $595 million, which the company attributed to losses posted by Stock.

Wolseley is a worldwide distributor of plumbing and heating supplies and building materials, with operations in 27 countries.

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