February housing starts hold steady
Data released Tuesday by the Department of Commerce show privately owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000.
The rate is 0.8% above the revised January estimate of 910,000. It’s also 27.7% above the same rate a year ago.
Single-family starts were also up slightly in February, hitting a rate of 618,000, up 0.5% from the previous month.
Building permits were up 4.6% in February, reaching a rate of 946,000. That’s up 33.8% from February 2012. Single-family building permits were up 2.7% in February, compared with January.
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Energy Star honors Sears Holdings
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Sears Holdings with a 2013 Energy Star Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence Award for its continued leadership in protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency. This year, Sears Holdings is being awarded for both its role as a retailer of Energy Star-certified products and for energy management in its stores. Sears Holdings’ accomplishments will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on March 26.
Sears Holdings, an Energy Star partner since 1998, will be honored for its long-term commitment to energy efficiency. Sears Holdings demonstrates impressive commitment to providing a wide-array of Energy Star products and services, along with superior energy management across its building portfolio, coupled with enhanced associate and consumer education to drive awareness and adoption of energy efficiency and climate protection. The company’s related accomplishments last year include:
Energy Savings: In 2012, Sears Holdings’ total weather normalized source energy usage decreased by 2,872,416,518 kbtu, a reduction of more than 7% over last year. Additionally, the company reduced average weather normalized source energy intensity to 133.9 kbtu/sqft, a 7.1% reduction over 2011. This reduction of EUI was made possible by energy savings across all of the Sears Holdings formats. Furthermore, the company reduced electricity usage by nearly 220,000,000 kWh, a 6.6% savings over the previous year.
Product Selection: The introduction of the Kenmore Connect platform was among interesting developments at Sears in 2012. Sears looks forward to the continued expansion of the platform in the future and the potential for integration with the Energy Star program and overall energy efficiency. Additionally, Sears also experienced growth across its portfolio in the Most Efficient program and now offers 48 clothes washers and 11 refrigerators. This is a differentiation that is important in continuing to be a market leader with Energy Star.
Marketing: In 2012, the company continued to communicate its environmental leadership to its SHOP YOUR WAY Members and customers through its dedicated Sears and Kmart green websites (Sears.com/green and Kmart.com/green). Social media has also remained a feature of Sears strategy this year it utilized company Facebook, Twitter and team specific Twitter channels to deliver its sustainability message.
Partnership: Sears’ strong relationship with local utilities differentiates the company from other retailers. Through Sears Green Leadership team, it is able to capitalize on these relationships to drive traffic to its stores and generate awareness for the Energy Star brand.
Builder confidence slips in March
Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes paused for a third consecutive month in March, falling two points to 44 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).
“Following eight consecutive months of improvement, builder confidence leveled off in January and has since edged down several points,” said NAHB chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “Although many of our members are reporting increased demand for new homes in their markets, their enthusiasm is being tempered by frustrating bottlenecks in the supply chain for developed lots along with rising costs for building materials and labor. At the same time, problems with appraisals and credit availability remain considerable obstacles to completing deals.”
While the HMI component gauging current sales conditions declined four points to 47, the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers both posted gains, of one point to 51 and three points to 35, respectively, in March.
Three-month moving averages for each region’s HMI score were also mixed. The Northeast was unchanged at 39; the Midwest and South posted one-point declines to 47 and 46, respectively; and the West registered a four-point increase to 58.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “”high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
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