Shoplifters sought for pulling a switch at the checkout
Suspects are being sought by federal authorities for allegedly stealing $130,000 worth of merchandise from Lowe’s by smuggling it out in toilet and sink boxes, according to an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
A complaint unsealed in Seattle court last week said that Altor, Larsell and Leonard Hollingsworth, along with one of their sons, have been going into Lowe’s stores since 2007 and emptying out toilet and sink boxes so they could fill them with high-end faucets and other items. The brothers, who frequently had female accomplices, would then check out the merchandise for the cost of the toilet or sink, investigators allege. As pat of the scheme, the Hollingsworth brothers are accused of returning the items to different Lowe’s stores in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona for gift cards totaling about $130,000.
Two of the brothers — Altor and Larsell Hollingsworth — have been arrested. Altor’s son, Alton, and the other brother, Leonard, remain at large.
A lawyer for Larsell Hollingsworth declined to comment except to note his client is presumed innocent. A lawyer for Altor could not immediately be reached.
S&P/Case-Shiller sees a double dip in home prices
The S&P/Case-Shiller Index, a leading indicator of U.S. housing prices, recorded declines in 19 of the 20 MSAs compared to March 2010. Twelve of the 20 MSAs and the 20-City Composite also posted new index lows in March.
The U.S. National Home Price Index declined by 4.2% in the first quarter of 2011, after having fallen 3.6% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The National Index hit a new recession low with the first quarter’s data and posted an annual decline of 5.1% versus the first quarter of 2010. Nationally, home prices are back to their mid-2002 levels.
“This month’s report is marked by the confirmation of a double-dip in home prices across much of the nation,” said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the S&P Index Committee. “The National Index, the 20-City Composite and 12 MSAs all hit new lows with data reported through March 2011. The National Index fell 4.2% over the first quarter alone, and is down 5.1% compared to its year-ago level. Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight.”
“Since December 2010, we have found an increasing number of markets posting new lows,” Blitzer continued. “In March 2011, 12 cities – Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, and Tampa – fell to their lowest levels as measured by the current housing cycle. Washington D.C. was the only MSA displaying positive trends with an annual growth rate of [positive] 4.3% and a 1.1% increase from its February level.
“Looking deeper into the monthly data, 18 MSAs and both composites were down in March over February. The only two which weren’t, are Washington DC, up 1.1%, and Seattle, up 0.1%. Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Las Vegas are the markets where average home prices are now below their January 2000 levels. With a March index level of 100.27, Phoenix is not far off.”
Consumer Confidence slips in May
Consumer Confidence, as measured by the New York City-based Conference Board, declined to 60.8 in May, down from 66.0 in April.
Conference Board director Lynn Franco described the more pessimistic outlook in a statement this morning: "Consumers are considerably more apprehensive about future business and labor market conditions, as well as their income prospects," Franco said. "Inflation concerns, which had eased last month, have picked up once again. On the other hand, consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined only modestly, suggesting no significant pickup or deterioration in the pace of growth.”
The current reading is still ahead of last year’s index of 54.8.
The Present Situation Index decreased to 39.3 from 40.2. The Expectations Index declined to 75.2 from 83.2 last month.
The full release is available here.