Custom Search

Monday, January 25, 2010

USA Housing sales ,drop 16.7% !

Sales of U.S. existing homes plunged 16.7% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million from 6.54 million in November as a popular tax credit was set to expire, a national real estate trade group estimated Monday.
The 16.7% percentage decline from November to December was the largest on record, dating back to 1968, the National Association of Realtors reported.
The decline was larger than the 11% drop to 5.80 million that was expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. Read our complete economic calendar and consensus forecast.

News Hub: Largest Real Estate Deal Goes Bust

Tishman Speyer's deal for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, which was the biggest real estate deal at the time, may end up in bankruptcy, the News Hub panel reports.
Sales in December were up 15% compared with December 2008. Read the full report on the NAR website.
The median sales price rose to $178,300 in December, up 1.5% compared with a year earlier. It's the first year-over-year increase in prices since August 2007.
For all of 2009, sales rose 4.9% to 5.16 million compared with 2008. The median price fell 12.5% in 2009.
"The market is going through a period of swings driven by the tax credit," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the real estate lobbying group. "We're likely to have another surge in the spring."
"Job creation is the key to a continued recovery in the second half of the year," Yun said, adding he believed there was some sustainable momentum in the market. December's sales pace was up 11% compared with June's.

Sales had surged about 40% from June to November in response to the federal tax credit for first-time buyers, which was set to expire on Nov. 30. As it happened, the tax credit was extended until June 2010 and expanded to cover repeat buyers.
But buyers didn't know the credit would be extended when they were shopping for homes in October. In order to close in December, they would have had to sign a sales contract by early November at the latest. Existing-home sales are recorded at the closing.
First-time buyers accounted for 43% of sales in December, down from 51% in November.
Inventories of unsold homes on the market dropped 6.6% to 3.29 million, the lowest since March 2006. The inventory figures are not seasonally adjusted. Inventories usually fall about 8% this time of year.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trading conditions are going to be choppy the next few months !

After calm trading conditions and fairly narrow trading ranges since the start of the year, currency markets are bracing for more-volatile market moves this week that may overshadow the Federal Reserve's rate-setting meeting.
With the Fed widely expected to leave rates near zero and make few if any changes to its post-meeting statement, events abroad and in the domestic political arena will keep currency investors on their toes. These events include any further steps by China to rein in lending, another round of credit jitters in the nations that use the euro, developments in U.S. bank-overhaul plans, as well as the delay in the Senate's vote to reconfirm Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman.

Last week, volatility jumped: The dollar touched the strongest level against the euro since July before giving back some ground. The yen, the biggest beneficiary in the recent flight-to-safety environment, rallied to a one-month high against the greenback.
"Until Feb. 16, when the [European Union] issues their assessment of the Greek budget, there's going to be a lot of volatility," said Ihab Salib, who oversees more than $3 billion as head of international fixed-income at Federated Investments Inc. in Pittsburgh. He doesn't expect that the euro will "necessarily" weaken, but volatility will "definitely" be high.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange's volatility index, or VIX, a proxy for investor sentiment, spiked Thursday to the highest level in a month, to as high as 21.93.
"We had been on a downward trending path in terms of the VIX and G7 currency volatility," said Camilla Sutton, currency strategist at Scotia Capital in Toronto. "A recent spike up in both reflects that markets are no longer content that prices are going to stay in these ranges that we've been in, and that the path of prices on the horizon will be more volatile."
The J.P. Morgan G-7 volatility index rebounded to 12.15 Friday, after slumping to 11.5 on Jan. 14, the lowest since September 2008. An increase in volatility reduces the appeal of carry trades, when investors borrow cheap money in low-yielding currencies to fund purchases of riskier assets, as price swings may erode profits from those bets on interest-rate differential.
"As volatility rises and risk aversion comes back to the markets, carry trades come under pressure as investors get quite nervous," Ms. Sutton said.
Late Friday in New York, the euro had strengthened to $1.4139 from $1.4094 late Thursday. The dollar weakened to 89.87 yen from 90.41 yen, while the euro moved to 127.07 yen from 127.42 yen. The U.K. pound weakened to $1.6114 from $1.6199. The dollar weakened to 1.0414 Swiss francs from 1.0421 francs.
All eyes now will be on the Federal Open Market Committee's interest-rate decision and statement, due out Wednesday at around 2:15 p.m. Eastern time The expectations are that rates will be left unchanged and there will be no change announced in the Fed's asset-purchase program, scheduled to end in March.
"The likelihood is for the Fed's statement to be very similar to the previous one," said Dale Thomas, head of currencies in London at Insight Investment Management, which oversees about $32.2 billion. "I don't think what the Fed says, unless they make massive changes, is going to make any difference whatsoever."
The prospect of China tightening its policy and the euro malaise will continue to dominate sentiment in currency markets, Mr. Thomas said.
Meanwhile, the cost of insuring Greece's debt against default rose to a record Friday amid worries about the country's large budget deficits. Greek authorities said they plan to sell dollar-denominated debt to help shore up finances.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Apple tablet to debut in 2010 ?

by A. Hesseldahl

provided by

If its engineers hew to recent history, Apple's tablet computer may look nothing like what the prognosticators foresee.

The speculative madness surrounding Apple's rumored tablet computer has finally reached its frothy peak.

More from

• Five Ways Apple's Tablet May Change the World

• New Gear from Apple and Verizon Wireless?

• Apple: Finding Even More Uses for iTunes

Tech's chattering classes are obsessed with the unconfirmed product, which Apple (AAPL) may announce at an event in January, or February, or March, depending on which set of reports you adhere to. Apple, not surprisingly, is mum.

The hunger for information—and misguided speculation—reminds me of the mistaken prognosticating about the iPhone before its introduction three years ago. It may be time to step back and realize that Apple may uncork a product so surprising that the company again leaves the tech industry scrambling to catch up to its products' smooth operation and sleek design.

Documented facts about the tablet are few. This much we do know: In November 2008, Apple took control of the trademark name TabletMac from a company called Axiotron, which converts MacBook laptops into tablet computers running Apple's Mac OS X.

Wild Imaginings

In April, BusinessWeek talked with people who had seen prototypes of a device they called a media pad as well as a small iPhone, described as "iPhone lite" by the person who saw it.

Then there's outside speculation. In November the Taiwanese Web site Digitimes, often regarded as a solid source of information regarding the plans of Taiwan's electronic manufacturing sector, reported that the Apple tablet had been delayed until the second half of 2010 because of the price to build its display.

On Dec. 24, New York Times blogger Nick Bilton quoted two people—one an unnamed source, the other a former Apple employee—dropping tantalizing clues. Jobs is "very happy" with the machine, and users will be "very surprised at how you interact with the new tablet," the Times wrote. About the same time, the Financial Times reported that Apple plans to reveal the new device at an event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on Jan. 26.

Missing the Mark on the iPhone

It's important to take reports like these with an appropriate helping of salt. Apple holds numerous trademarks it doesn't actively use; ever hear of MacTel, Vingle, or Drypod? In addition, Apple's top-secret labs in Cupertino, Calif., have probably developed numerous tablet prototypes, some of which may be used to show potential partners but that don't represent a finished product. And leakers have a tendency to exaggerate what they know, or invent from whole cloth.

A similar speculative frenzy surrounded the January 2007 iPhone launch. Looking back at Apple rumor site postings in the months leading up to its debut, I noticed how far off the mark many were about the iPhone's looks, Apple's partners, and who the carrier would be who could resell it. For example, enthusiasts' home-made design drawings that emerged on rumor sites showed a phone that sported a navigation wheel similar to the iPod's. Others imagined the iPhone would have a slide-out keyboard.

Few saw the potential for a touch-sensitive display, which eventually became the signature design element of the iPhone and iPod touch.

Consider the fevered imaginings endemic to Apple. The company engenders such strong reactions from its customers that users tend to "project the known upon the unknown," says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at market researcher Interpret. That's why so many observers took the well-understood iPod and grafted a phone onto it when imagining Apple's iPhone plans.

A Larger Screen?

Apple's tablet may revolve around a larger touch-sensitive screen than the iPhone's, which could be central to its design and control. I've speculated about it myself in a past column. The iPod touch is so useful an Internet device that I keep one handy on my bedside table. It would make a lot of sense for Apple to market a device with a larger screen—say, 7 in. to 10 in. diagonally—that runs applications downloaded from the iTunes app store, wouldn't it?

Writers and tech pundits think so. But we're not Apple engineers and designers. What seems from the outside to be a logical progression may seem merely simplistic to the folks at Apple's 1 Infinite Loop headquarters. Their job isn't so much to think about the next logical step on a path as to set a divergent course for what people are likely to want for years to come.

Apple may throw everyone a curve ball here. Imagine an Apple tablet about the size of a 11-in. spiral notebook with an iPhone-like touch screen. How about the ability for the machine to recognize voice commands and dictation of text? A built-in video camera and maybe a mini-projector for meetings would be nice. And if the reports of Apple's discussion to land print media content in the iTunes store are true, how about an easy-on-the-eyes display for reading electronic magazines and books?

Embracing Two Worlds

A more fundamental question is whether Apple's tablet will more closely resemble an iPhone or a Mac. It will be fascinating to see how whatever emerges straddles those two worlds.

We use PCs and laptops to get things done when we're stationary; we use mobile devices to stay informed and complete small tasks when we're out and about. This device, it seems, will either have to incorporate both paradigms or have to create one of its own.

My bet? There will be a product from Apple reasonably described as a tablet, and Apple will reveal it during the first quarter of 2010. That's not going too far out on a limb. As the iPhone enters its third year, Apple needs something new to sell to keep delighting its customers, inspiring envy among its competitors, and increasing its sales.

My Headlines