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November starts fall to 625,000

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Housing starts dove 18.9 percent in November, according to data released Tuesday morning by the Commerce Department. New starts fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 625,000, the lowest since the DOC began keeping track in 1959.

Compared to the November 2007 figure of 1.179 million new housing starts, the current figure marks a 47 percent year-over-year decline.

All four regions of the country posted double-digit negative percentage changes in both year-over-year and month-to-month comparisons. The most dramatic percent-change decline came in the Northeast, where November housing starts fell 59.8 percent compared to November of last year.

November stats fell well below consensus estimates, which had predicted starts to come in at about 740,000 units. In October, starts were revised to a record-low annual rate of 771,000 from 791,000 previously.

Building permits also declined in November, falling to 616,000. That’s down 15.6 percent from October’s figure, and down 48.1 percent from a year ago.

“The steep declines in home production that were reported today are in keeping with the extremely poor sales conditions that builders are seeing in their markets, as indicated by our most recent member surveys,” noted National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va. “Builders are doing exactly what they should be doing – they are actively reducing their inventories, virtually to the point of no longer building, in order to avoid adding more product to the marketplace. Congress and the Administration now need to do their part and ‘fix housing first’ in two ways. One is by stimulating demand, which will help put a floor under home values, and the other is by aggressively addressing the foreclosure problem.”

The Commerce Department report this morning follows on the heels of the record low reading of home builders confidence. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) remained unchanged from November’s all-time low reading of 9. A reading above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

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AHMA revamps Hardlines Technology Forum

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The 2009 Hardlines Technology Forum, scheduled for April 19 to 22, 2009, will feature a revised format, new topics and special sessions with Do it Best, Lowe’s and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Sponsored by the American Hardware Manufacturers Association (AHMA), the Hardlines Technology Forum will be held in downtown Philadelphia, on the 33rd floor of the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.

Sessions will be divided into two levels: “basic understanding” and “deep dive.” Standard topics like data synch and EDI and data quality will be joined by new sessions such as “Scorecarding, Measurement, KPIs,” “Sarbanes-Oxley” and “Data Security for Filing Sharing — A Practical Gude.” 

Executives from three retail/wholesale companies — Do it Best, Lowe’s and  the Army and Air Force Exchange Service — will give insights in separate sessions on how to do business with their companies. Hannah Smalltree, editorial director of TechTarget.com’s Enterprise Applications Media Group, will moderate the annual Buyer’s Panel, where leading hardlines executives reveal their IT plans for the upcoming year.

For more information about the 2009 Hardlines Technology Forum, visit www.ahma.org/htf.

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Plum Creek names new vp-Montana operations

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Plum Creek Timber has promoted Tom Ray to vp-Montana operations. In his new role, Ray will oversee Plum Creek’s 10 manufacturing operations, one of which is in Meridian, Idaho. He will also oversee management of the company’s timberland resources in Montana. Ray will continue to be based in Columbia Falls and will report to Hank Ricklefs, vp-northern resources and manufacturing.

“For years, Tom has been an integral part of Plum Creek’s management team in Montana,” said Ricklefs. “Tom has extensive experience integrating our forestry activities with our manufacturing plants and has the expertise to successfully guide Plum Creek’s manufacturing business through these challenging times.”

Ray joined the Seattle-based company in 2001 when it merged with the Timber Co. (formerly part of Georgia-Pacific). Prior to his new position, he served as general manager, northwest region. He was also a business analyst and resource manager for Northern California lands. He has a bachelor of science degree in forest engineering from Oregon State University.

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