Wednesday, August 22, 2007
More & More - This Feels Like a Correction - Aug 20, 2007
CNN Money reports on New York. “What could the collapse in the subprime mortgage market possibly have to do with whether Dr. Jeffrey and Madeline Stier get full price for their four-bedroom house in the wealthy New York City suburb of Larchmont? It’s clear that what’s happening in the subprime market…has for now prompted many high-end homebuyers to either trim their offers or stop shopping altogether. ‘It’s the hysteria on Wall Street,’ Jeffrey Stier says. ‘It’s frightening people.’”
The Times Herald Record from New York. “The subprime market crunch has hit home in the mid-Hudson Valley. Empty homes formerly occupied by subprime buyers already dot our region. Know this: The impact of living with a subprime mortgage is here and it’s real.”
The New York Times on Connecticut. “Three years ago, Martin and Jennifer Cossette bought into the dream of homeownership,— the quintessentially American ideal of personal striving and family stability celebrated by politicians, promoted by Madison Avenue and financed by Wall Street.”
read more on The Housing Bubble Blog
- 2:25 PM PDT Tuesday, August 21, 2007
California reported 39,013 foreclosure filings in July, the most of any state for the seventh month in a row and up 289 percent from the same period last year, according to a report released Tuesday.
Irvine-based RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties, said that while 43 states experienced year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity, just five states -- California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia -- accounted for more than half of the nation's total foreclosure filings.
Six California metropolitan areas reported foreclosure rates among the top 10 in July: Stockton at No. 2, Merced at No. 3, Modesto at No. 4, Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 5, Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 8, and Sacramento at No. 9.
Other states with foreclosure filing totals among the nation's 10 highest in July were Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Illinois and Nevada.
Lam Research Corp. is planning to move about 375 workers to Livermore in the next few months.
The Fremont-based chip equipment maker (NASDAQ:LRCX) said it intends to establish a "new primary manufacturing" operation and "volume production activities" .
Friday, August 17, 2007
- 9:20 AM PDT Thursday, August 16, 2007
" Molecular diagnostics company Cepheid Corp. said Thursday it entered a five-year agreement for up to $200 million in anthrax test cartridges for the U.S. Postal Service.
Sunnyvale-based Cepheid (NASDAQ:CPHD) said the cartridges are used in biohazard detection systems and installed at mail processing centers nationwide.
Cepheid said its system rapidly analyzes air samples taken from the mail sorting systems in order to detect any potential trace levels of DNA from anthrax spores as mail travels through the mail processing equipment. "
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Antero Resources Corp. received the massive equity infusion from private firms Warburg Pincus, Yorktown Energy Partners VII LP and Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Group.
" Countrywide Financial Corp., , the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, fell 13 percent, the most since the 1987 stock market crash, after Merrill Lynch & Co. raised the possibility of bankruptcy.
"Effective insolvency" would result if creditors force Countrywide to sell assets at depressed prices or investors lose confidence in its ability to raise cash, Kenneth Bruce, a Merrill analyst in San Francisco, said in a research note Wednesday.
Shareholders shouldn't "understate the importance of liquidity," Bruce wrote.
Countrywide's shares have lost almost half their value this year on concern a credit crunch in the mortgage industry will erode profit.
Last week, Countrywide said it had access to about $187 billion in credit. Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo assured investors that the company has enough cash to cope with the market turmoil, and said it may even benefit as competitors are forced out of business. "
As seen in the Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal
- 8:21 AM PDT Wednesday, August 15, 2007
" The San Jose City Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized Mineta San Jose International Airport to issue $825 million in general airport revenue bonds to continue funding of the airport's capital improvement program over the next three years.
Proceeds of the Series A & B bonds will finance a portion of the first phase of the airport's terminal area improvement program, which is estimated to cost about $1.3 billion and will be completed in 2010.
"Having a world-class, modern airport is critical to Silicon Valley's economy. With this funding, we can build an airport for the future and provide better service for our residents and businesses," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. ""
- August 1, 2007
" The nonprofit operator of a government group that hopes to spur economic development in the rural Triangle has bought land for three of its business hubs.
Officials for the Kerr-Tar Hub project said its nonprofit operator, the Kerr-Tar Regional Economic Development Corp., closed this week on 250 acres in Franklin County, 510 acres in Granville County and 350 acres in Warren County. The group is also in negotiations to buy 500 acres in Vance County.
Kerr-Tar is a partnership between the governments of the four counties.
Businesses that develop in any of the Kerr-Tar hubs will be eligible for Tier 1 tax credits worth $12,500 per job created.
The Kerr-Tar partnership began in 2003 as a result of a study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was formalized in 2005. . "
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
" While market turmoil and fallout from the subprime-mortgage crisis have fuelled worries about the health of Canada's largest trading partner, the effects on consumers in this country's economy are less clear.
"Any time the biggest economy in the world feels the pinch, the rest of the world economy feels it as well," said David Wolf, Canadian economist at Merrill Lynch. "Many Canadian consumers work at producing goods and services that U.S. consumers buy or use and if the U.S. consumer is less willing to spend, it can affect [Canadian businesses and products] but any impact would likely be minimal.
" We have a 33-year low on the unemployment rate and the U.S. does not.
We are seeing acceleration in wages and the U.S. has not.
Canada's housing market is in great shape, in contrast to the U.S.
It's like apples and oranges right now." "
" North American markets were slammed again yesterday on signs the American consumer -- perhaps the biggest driver of recent economic expansion in both the United States and Canada -- is getting much more cautious about spending.
Wal-Mart announced second-quarter profit below analysts' expectations and trimmed its earnings forecast. Shoppers remained conservative amid higher gasoline prices and housing costs.
"U.S. consumers continue to be under difficult pressure economically," said H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart chief executive. "The top concerns among our customers are economic, money and finances, the increase in the cost of living, and gas prices."
Consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the U.S. economy, slowed to a 1.3% annual growth rate in the second quarter, the weakest since 2005 "
As seen in the Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal
- July 31, 2007
Technology Partners said Tuesday it formed a $300 million fund that will be equally directed toward cleantech and life science companies.
Palo Alto-based Technology Partners said Fund VIII follows the same strategy the firm used in previous investments.
Technology Partners said its cleantech investments primarily focus on energy technology, water technology and advanced materials. In life sciences, it looks for opportunities in neuroscience and lifestyle therapies in areas ranging from aesthetics to obesity to women's health.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
More tough times ahead for drillers
Wet weather, low gas prices blamed
As seen in the Calgary Herald
Friday, July 27, 2007
" The clouds got darker for Canada's drilling services sector Thursday after a leading industry group slashed its 2007 drilling forecast nearly 25 per cent -- and the country's biggest driller reported a dramatic drop in second quarter earnings.
The Canadian Petroleum Services Association (PSAC) now expects 17,650 wells will be drilled in 2007 from last year's record count of 23,306.
Alberta is expected to experience a 27 per cent drop, while gas-dominated British Columbia is expected to fall 42 per cent.
Soucy also indicated that "many areas in the western Canadian sedimentary basin now need natural gas prices of $8 to $10 (per thousand cubic feet) to attract new drilling."
In New York, oil closed at $74.95 US a barrel while natural gas finished at $5.94.
After a prolonged spring break-up, Canadian service outfits are already feeling the pain of what industry insiders say is shaping up to be the worst drilling year in a decade.
Wet weather and high levels of uncertainty stemming from falling natural gas prices combined to produce some of the lowest activity levels in 10 years, Precision said.
Precision, which operates about a third of all rigs in Canada, has seen its bottom line deteriorate as the big natural gas producers -- EnCana Corp., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Talisman Energy Inc. -- cut back spending in response to higher costs and lower commodity prices.
"As a result we do not see a material increase in rig count until the tail end of 2008," it said.
According to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, 42 per cent of 885 available units were working this week, down from 73 per cent at this time last year.
Some previously unarmed Canadian border guards held graduation ceremonies Friday after three weeks of firearms training and will return to work with sidearms on their hips.
"This is an ongoing step in equipping our border officers with the technology and the training to keep our border safe," Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Friday in Chilliwack, B.C.
The plan is to eventually arm all 4,400 guards, a process that's expected to take a decade.
Twenty-four officers in Chilliwack and 28 in Ottawa went through three-week training programs on using Beretta PX4 Storm 9 mm pistols. The RCMP conducted the training, instructing the guards on the responses to threats allowed by the law.
"The work has gotten more dangerous," he said.
In January 2006, a U.S. police pursuit of two fugitives ended in a shootout only metres from the Canadian border at B.C.'s Peace Arch crossing .
If border guards think their safety is in jeopardy, they have the right to abandon their posts. The RCMP are expected to handle potentially violent situations.
The day after that Peace Arch incident, then-justice minister Vic Toews announced that border guards would be armed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made yet another announcement in September 2006.
The former Liberal government thought arming guards would be too expensive and that having armed guards greeting visitors would send the wrong message. However, a 2005 Senate report found that arming border guards was a good idea.
U.S. border guards have been armed for years.
Companies have global-level growth plans for Alberta's rich-making resource
As seen in the The Edmonton Journal
Aug 6, 2007
Edmonton / A year after former Shell Canada president Clive Mather gave out a hint, the scale of development on Alberta's horizon is coming into sharper focus.
"What we're saying is this is only the beginning," Mather said as he escorted U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on an oilsands tour north of Fort McMurray.
"There's an awful lot more to come," Mather said. Syncrude Canada chief executive Charles Ruigrok echoed his Shell peer, saying the province's 141,000-square-kilometre bitumen belt is catching and holding the attention of global industry and finance.
In January and last week, the Athabasca Oil Sands Project gave some answers in applications for regulatory approvals of its growth plans.
The Athabasca group alone -- led by 60-per-cent owner Shell and backed by Chevron Canada and Western Oil Sands with 20 per cent each -- has set its sights on achieving production of 770,000 barrels per day from its 1,200 square kilometres of Fort McMurray bitumen leases by about 2020.
It took the entire industry 67 years and 56,772 wells to build up Alberta output of conventional liquid oil into the 800,000-barrels-a-day range, from the first discovery at Waterton in 1902 until 1969, show records of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
The oilsands are "world class," Texas giant Marathon Oil Corp. added in announcing its $6.5-billion takeover of Western.
Shell emphasized that all its majority share of the Athabasca reserves will be processed in Alberta, yielding maximum value to the firm's Canadian operations and the provincial economy.
Marathon, a 120-year-old American industry mainstay with few Canadian assets, will eventually export most of its minority of the Athabasca bitumen to its seven U.S. refineries and 5,700 service stations.
Chevron has yet to make known plans for all its share of Athabasca reserves, or for an estimated 7.5 billion barrels of bitumen in 730 square kilometres of leases known as Ells River that the firm bought west of Fort McMurray 16 months ago.
But the Shell program alone spells more than a decade of heavy industrial work in the Fort Saskatchewan area east of Edmonton. Forecast expenditures of $22 billion to $27 billion include nearly $8 billion in wages for local workers.
The Scotford mega-upgrader will be built as four 100,000-barrels-a-day plants. It will be a continuous construction project lasting about 13 years provided oil markets, government policies and economic conditions stay favourable.
Shell wrote an invitation to industrial housing builders into its construction applications to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and Alberta Environment.
The region could use the sprawling, hotel-like worker complexes known as "open camps" that have sprouted in the Fort McMurray region, the documents predict.
Building each of the four upgrader plants will require 3,000 to 4,000 trades personnel at construction activity peaks.
But the mega-upgrader is just the biggest of many large projects in the 310-square-kilometre Alberta Industrial Heartland district northeast of Edmonton.
Counting all currently known developments "the cumulative construction workforce is expected to remain high, at more than 8,000 workers, from mid-2008 to early 2013, with a peak of about 13,300 workers in late 2011," Shell forecasts.
"Based on an estimated 7,500 local trades people available, additional workers from outside the region or province will be needed."
In highly skilled occupations needed by industrial projects, Edmonton oilsands jobs will be more like careers than the traditional feast-or-famine pattern of construction contracting.
Shell vowed "to use the project's lengthy construction schedule to offer the opportunity of long-term, stable employment as a means of attracting and retaining industrial workers and potentially attracting out-of-region workers."
When finished, the chain of four upgrader plants is expected to create 1,438 permanent jobs including 1,138 full-time staff and 300 contractor positions.
Since the Edmonton area already has a population of more than a million, Shell predicts it will absorb the upgrader people without repeating the notorious boomtown trauma of Fort McMurray.
As seen in the National Post
Saturday, August 04, 2007
"" ALEXIS CREEK, B.C. -One of Canada's largest working ranches is up for sale, and folks in this dusty hamlet are guessing who might cough up the $24.8-million asking price. Best bet is a stranger, someone not from these parts. Someone with a private jet and cash to burn.
The attractions are obvious: The open range, vast forests, pristine rivers, glacier-fed lakes and crisp, starlit nights. Fishing and hunting at one's pleasure. A come-as-you-wish crack at the cowboy life. The high plains of the B.C. interior, north of Kamloops, are playgrounds for the moneyed set.
Attractive to a Saudi sheik, perhaps. An American celebrity or industrialist. A Euro-royal, romanced by silver screen images of the Old West. Or a reclusive eccentric, looking for refuge on what's left of the frontier. The locals are already familiar with these types; they are the new neighbours.
Ironically, the last person expected to buy the old Alexis Creek Ranch -- 4,000 hectares of deeded property, access to another 101,000 hectares of prime grazing land, and 1,000 head of hardy stock cows and 50 purebred Black Angus bulls -- is an honest-to-goodness cattleman: They are few and far between these days.
The current owner is Bruce Blakey, a septuagenarian marine electronics magnate from Seattle. He bought Alexis Creek 14 years ago from a German, one Richard Wittgenstein, a.k.a. HH Prince Richard Casimir Karl August Robert Konstantin of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, and son-in-law to the King and Queen of Denmark.
Prince Richard didn't amble about the ranch that much, apparently. Mr. Blakey snapped it up in 1993 when land prices were lower, but his primary motive was the improvement of his health. He wanted to take on something physical, and got his money's worth. Mr. Blakey began travelling to the ranch from his Seattle home every second week. He built a new irrigation system to pump water from the Chilcotin River and then over 725 hectares of hay and silage, perfect homegrown fodder for the cattle. He built a five-bedroom ranch house.
The new airport is his crowning touch. It comes with a paved runway and a massive hangar that easily accommodates Mr. Blakey's Citation jet. It also boasts private quarters for his own flight crew.
Mr. Blakey is an intensely private individual who would not participate in an interview for this story. Instead, he dispatched his Vancouver-based realtor to show me around the sprawling property, about an hour's drive west of Williams Lake.
"I'm selling a first-class airport with a ranch around it," declares Irv Ridd. A good line, made only half in jest. Without the modern airfield, he notes, Alexis Creek might not attract the right kind of buyer. "Qualified people," he calls them. "Persons of great wealth."
"Alexis Creek is a turnkey operation and everything is included in the price, down to the salt and pepper in the shakers," says Mr. Ridd, as we drive up to the ranch house. "But the person who will buy this ranch will do it because of the airport. And because he wants to do something interesting with [his] money. He probably already owns commercial real estate, like a shopping centre or something. But this is different."
The ranch went on the market three weeks ago, and while some potential buyers have expressed interest and have even flown in on their own aircraft to inspect the place, closing a deal could take many more months. The present owner is determined to sell to someone committed to maintaining the cattle operation, which requires at least four full-time cowboys plus farmers and mechanics.
And there's the rub: Running a large cattle ranch in B.C. is not exactly lucrative. Mr. Ridd says the Alexis Creek herd, while relatively small for a ranch this size, does generate an annual profit. But precise figures are closely guarded; financial statements are reserved for prospective buyers, who must sign off on confidentiality agreements before they see them.
Margins have to be slim. Beef prices have long been stagnant. Meanwhile, the cost of labour and fuel keeps rising. Doug Sinclair, a Vancouver architect who owns an organic cattle ranch nearby, says that "trophy ranches" such as Alexis Creek have trouble breaking even.
"Conventional cattle ranching in Canada cannot be sustained much longer," he says. "A calf sold for $500 in 1951. How much does a calf sell for in 2007? $500. Meanwhile, everything else has gone up in price."
Why, then, do people still get into ranching?
"I'm asking myself that every day," Mr. Sinclair says .
Some ranch owners rarely even visit. About 100 kilometres south of Alexis Creek sits the historic Gang Ranch. For reasons all his own, a billionaire industrialist from Saudi Arabia quietly bought the place in the late 1980s. Reportedly, Ibrahim Muhammad Afandi has set foot on his 15,000 hectares only twice. No one paid him much attention until 2002, when a list of alleged al-Qaeda benefactors surfaced in Bosnia. Mr. Afandi's name was on the list.
Further south, near the town of Merritt, lies the more famous Douglas Lake Ranch. A massive, 514,000-acre spread, it was once owned by Bernie Ebbers, the Edmonton-born co-founder of WorldCom Inc. Mr. Ebbers was convicted of fraud for his role in the WorldCom collapse and is serving a 25-year prison sentence in Louisiana.
The ranch was sold to U.S. billionaire Stanley Kroenke in 2004 for approximately $93-million. No one has ever suggested he bought the Douglas Lake Ranch because he loves the cattle business. Mr. Kroenke is a trophy hunter. He owns a handful of professional sports franchises, including the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the NBA's Denver Nuggets.
"The real lift for big ranch owners is the appreciation in land prices," acknowledges Mr. Ridd. "The rest, including the cowboy lifestyle, is gravy." ""
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Saturday, August 4, 2007
As read in Daily Real Estate News
August 2, 2007
The annual growth rate in prices of existing single family homes across the United States continued to decline for the 18th consecutive month in May, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.
Overall, the top 20 cities in the index declined 2.8 percent year-over-year, although five of the cities showed increases.
Cities measured by the index where values have increased in the 12 months are Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Portland, and Seattle.
Detroit continues to lead the metro areas in growth rate declines, down 11.1 percent from a year ago.
Here are the top 20 metropolitan areas and the percent of change in their real estate values over the last year:
Atlanta: 1.7 percent
Boston: -4.3 percent
Charlotte: 7 percent
Chicago: -0.6 percent
Cleveland: -2.8 percent
Dallas: 1.8 percent
Denver: -1.4 percent
Detroit: -11.1 percent
Las Vegas: -4.1 percent
Los Angeles: -3.3 percent
Miami: -3.3 percent
Minneapolis: -3.5 percent
New York: -2.3 percent
Phoenix: -5.5 percent
Portland: 5.7 percent
San Diego: -7 percent
San Francisco: -3.4 percent
Seattle: 9.1 percent
Tampa: -6.7 percent
Washington, D.C.: -6.3 percent
— REALTOR® Magazine Online