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Housing starts surge in September

BY Ken Clark

Housing starts in September increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000, up 15.0% from the August figure. The pace of residential construction was the highest since July 2008, and up 34.8% over the same figure last year.

Single-family starts also increased double digits — up 11.0% to a rate of 603,000.

Building permits in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000, up 11.6% above the revised August rate of 801,000. Permits were up 45.1% over the September 2011 rate.

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Sales dip at in Q4 at WD-40

BY Brae Canlen

Lubricant maker WD-40 Co. reported net sales of $84.9 million for its fourth fiscal quarter, a decrease of 6% from the same quarter last year. Net income for the fourth quarter, which ended Aug. 31, 2012, was $9.0 million, a decrease of 12% compared with the prior year fiscal quarter.

Year-to-date figures reported by the San Diego-based company were $342.8 million in net sales, up 2% from the prior fiscal year. Year-to-date net income was $35.5 million, a decrease of 3% from the prior fiscal year.

Sales in the fourth quarter for WD-40’s multi-purpose maintenance products — which include the WD-40 multi-use product, 3-in-One, Blue Works and the WD-40 Specialist product lines — were $70.6 million, down 5% from the prior year fiscal quarter, and $286.5 million year-to-date, up 3% from the prior fiscal year. The multi-purpose maintenance products are considered a primary focus, the company said.

Homecare and cleaning products sales, which include all other brands, were $14.3 million for the fourth quarter, down 14% from the prior year fiscal quarter, and were $56.3 million year-to-date, down 2% compared with the prior fiscal year. The U.S. homecare and cleaning products, such as X-14 mildew stain remover and automatic toilet bowl cleaners such as 2000 Flushes, are considered harvest brands providing healthy profit returns to the company and are becoming a smaller part of the business as the multi-purpose maintenance products sales grow, according to comments that accompanied the financial results.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2012, the company developed the WD-40 Bike product line, which is focused on the development of a comprehensive line of bicycle maintenance products for cyclists and mechanics.

WD-40 Co. expects fiscal year 2013 net sales to be in the range of  $356.0 million to $370.0 million. The company also said it anticipated net income of $36.5 million to $38.0 million and for fiscal year 2013.

WD-40 Co. markets its products in 187 countries worldwide and recorded sales of $343 million in fiscal year 2012.

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Builder confidence rises in October

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes edged slightly higher for a sixth consecutive month in October, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The one-point gain brings the index to 41, its strongest level since June 2006.

“Many builders are reporting increases in the number of serious buyers visiting their sales offices, and the overall confidence measure is much higher than it was at this time last year,” said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “The concern is that, even though demand for new homes is rising, overly tight credit conditions are still constraining new building and new purchases at a time when that kind of economic activity and the job growth it generates are greatly needed.” 

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 higher than 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

Following increases in the previous month, the HMI components measuring current sales conditions and sales prospects for the next six months remained unchanged in October at 42 and 51, respectively. The component measuring traffic of prospective buyers increased 5 points to 35, its highest level since April 2006.

Builder confidence continued to improve in three out of four regions in October. The HMI gained two points in the Midwest and West to 42 and 44, respectively, and three points in the South to 39. A three-month moving average for the Northeast’s HMI was unchanged at 29.

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