Housing starts sink to 1.006 million
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported housing starts plunged 14.2 percent in December 2007 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.006 million, compared with the November estimate of 1.173 million.
Single-family starts were at 794,000, down 2.9 percent below the November figure of 818,000, with buildings with five or more units dropping 41.1 percent.
Regionally, the Northeast saw a total decline of 25.8 percent, with a drop for single-family units of 7.4 percent. The Midwest saw a total decline of 30.8 percent, with a drop for single-family units of 9.3 percent. The South saw a total decline of 3.3 percent, with a drop of single-family units at 5.4 percent. The West saw a 19.6 percent decline, with a drop for single-family units at 16.3 percent.
“The 14.2 percent decline in overall housing starts for the month of December was due primarily to a 40 percent drop-off in the multi-family sector, which tends to display significant month-to-month volatility,” noted NAHB chief economist David Seiders. “On a quarterly basis, multi-family production actually has held up relatively well since the peak in the early part of 2006.”
The DOC reported an estimated 1,353,700 housing units built in 2007, down 24.5 percent from 1,800,900 in 2006.
Canfor will take $256 million hit
Canadian forest products company Canfor has announced pre-tax write-downs of about $256 million, another sign of the difficulty faced in lumber markets of the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
The Vancouver-based company said the charges included $90 million related to its lumber segment, $141 million related to wood panels and $25 million to corporate and other related segments.
In December, the forest products company opted to close a Chetwynd, B.C.-based sawmill, laying off 188 employees. Canfor attributed the closure to poor lumber markets and the impact of a high Canadian dollar. Additionally, Canfor earlier laid off 300 workers at four sawmills in British Columbia.
Canfor will release fourth-quarter and fiscal 2007 results on Feb. 22.
National Retail Federation holds convention in NYC
New York The National Retail Federation (NRF) held its annual convention and expo this week in New York, with a variety of educational programs and numerous vendors focused on store design, logistics, HR management and other retail-related fields.
The event included a “Design Studio,” focused on store design and merchandising concepts. Guest speakers included Home Depot’s Jason Feldman, who discussed new store designs at the retailer, and Melissa Hertel of Lightolier, who spoke on sustainable lighting in a retail setting.
Hertel outlined tax deduction incentives for retailers who participate and use green lighting, as well as strategies to use environmentally friendly lighting fixtures in overall merchandising concepts, with the goal of using “sustainable lighting [that] meets users’ needs with the least consumption of energy and other resources.”
Further education sessions focused on supply chain and logistics, in-store marketing and “big ideas” in retailing. The latter included guests from Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and SAS.
The NRF event will be held through today at the Javits Center in New York.