Housing starts show signs of life
Residential construction in January was healthier than expected.
Housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000, up 1.5% from 689,000 in December, according to data released Thursday morning by the Department of Commerce. But more encouraging: The January rate is up 9.9% from the same month a year ago.
Most analysts were looking for a figure anywhere from 645,000 to 671,000 for the month of January.
Flirting with the 700,000 mark is a good sign for the housing industry and those that supply it with products. Starts were at a pace of 702,000 in November 2011; but one has to look back more than three years for another example — starts were at 777,000 in October 2008.
In the single-family column, housing starts were at a rate of 508,000, actually down 1.0% from December 2011, but up 16.2% from January’s figure last year.
Building permits offered a similar story of steady improvement. Permits were at a rate of 676,000 for January, 0.7% above December and 19.0% above the January 2011 figure.
Annual sales rise at Owens Corning
Building products manufacturer Owens Corning reported net sales of $5.3 billion for fiscal year 2011, a 7% increase from net sales of $5.0 billion in 2010.
Net earnings for the year were $276 million, compared with net earnings of $933 million in 2010.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the company reported $1.2 billion in sales, compared with $1.16 billion in the same quarter of 2010. Net earnings for the fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31, 2011, were $50 million, compared with a $110 million loss in the same quarter of 2010.
“Owens Corning delivered another outstanding year in 2011. We achieved growth in revenue and EBIT in all of our businesses amid challenging market conditions,” said chairman and CEO Mike Thaman.
“Looking forward to 2012, we anticipate improved housing starts in the U.S. and modest growth in the global economy,” Thaman added. “Strong performance from our building materials segment will more than offset the impact of near-term market challenges in our composites segment, resulting in growth in adjusted EBIT and strong cash performance for Owens Corning.”
Blaze destroys Eagle Lumber building in Vermont
In a blaze captured on YouTube, a Stamford, Vt., facility owned by Eagle Lumber went up in flames in one of the biggest fires in the city’s history.
Some 50 fire fighters were called in to battle the fire. According to an article in the Bennington Banner, the facility is described as a "lumber processing building" and some of the equipment inside the building was insured.
The cause of the fire is not suspicious, according to Vermont state fire marshals, who are asking the public to come forward with any information regarding the blaze.