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NAHB voices support of rate cut

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) voiced support of what it called the Federal Reserve Board’s “aggressive action” to cut interest rates by 75 basis points this week.

The group said it strongly supports Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s statements made before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 22, encouraging Congress to move to “swiftly address the current housing crisis through legislation.”

Paulson urged Congress to approve three pieces of legislation: to increase the availability of affordable FHA mortgages; to enact comprehensive reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that allows them to temporarily buy larger home loans in high-cost markets; and to allow cities and states to issue tax-exempt mortgage bonds to refinance existing loans to help troubled borrowers.

“The Federal Reserve has set the tone by taking a decisive step to cut interest rates; now it’s time for Congress to move quickly and pass these three bills,” said NAHB president Brian Catalde, a home builder from El Segundo, Calif. “The Fed rate cut, action on these three bills and enacting an economic stimulus package is absolutely vital to restore consumer and business confidence.”

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Earnings fall at Stock, Ferguson

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Wolseley, the parent company of Stock Building Supply and Ferguson Enterprises, reported a 10 percent drop in revenues for its North American division during the five-month period ending Dec. 31, 2007. Earnings for the division, which also includes Wolseley’s Canadian operations, fell more than 40 percent.

Stock lost approximately 25 million pounds (US$49.3 million) in the five-month period, compared to a 45 million pound (US$88.7 million) profit in the comparable period a year ago. The Raleigh, N.C.-based pro dealer eliminated 1,500 jobs in the first quarter.

Plumbing wholesaler Ferguson saw a 3 percent rise in revenues due to acquisitions but a 3 percent drop in organic sales growth during the period. Profits were down 3 percent for the Newport News, Va.-based company. Since August 2007, Ferguson’s headcount has been reduced by 1,500.

Stock and Ferguson are no longer obligated to report their financial results to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Wolseley delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, effective Dec. 31, 2007, as a cost-saving measure, according to the company. Wolseley’s shares continue to trade on the over-the-counter market. The company is also listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Headquartered in Reading, England, Wolseley is an international building materials distributor with nearly 5,000 branch operations in 28 countries.

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Minnesota warns of possible emerald ash borer in Lowe’s planters

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has released a statement warning of a possible emerald ash borer infestation in certain planters sold in that state. The “Nature’s Own Planters” by Lawson Products have not shown signs of an ash borer infestation, according to a statement from the group, but the warning is being issued as a precautionary measure.

“The products apparently were distributed to Lowe’s stores in Minnesota,” said a statement from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “Last week, MDA learned that a manufacturer in Indiana allegedly had mislabeled the planter boxes and shipped them into other states during the summer and fall of 2007 without the proper compliance agreement. MDA officials continue to investigate the situation along with their federal counterparts.”

Although Minnesota has not had an infestation of the emerald ash borer, the agriculture department said the insect can move to new areas in infested firewood or other ash material. The emerald ash borer has been blamed for killing 20 million ash trees throughout the Midwest, in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

“We’ve received great cooperation from the retail stores, and now we’re hoping to get help from individual consumers who may have bought these planter boxes,” said Geir Friisoe, MDA plant protection division director. Friisoe said none of the planter boxes inspected by MDA showed signs of emerald ash borer.

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