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Monday, July 26, 2010

Sales of U.S. new homes rose in June more than forecast up 23% .....

Sales of U.S. new homes rose in June more than forecast following an unprecedented collapse the prior month, a signal the worst of the slump triggered by the end of a government tax credit is over.

Purchases increased 24 percent from May to an annual pace of 330,000, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. The rate was the second-lowest in data going back to 1963 after May’s downwardly revised 267,000 pace.

The lowest mortgage rates on record may help underpin demand, stabilizing the industry that triggered the worst recession since the 1930s. Even so, increasing foreclosures are swelling the number of unsold existing homes, putting pressure on prices and keeping buyers on the sidelines as unemployment hovers near 10 percent and the economy cools.

“We’ll probably reach an equilibrium level over the next couple of months and I wouldn’t be surprised if we slog along the bottom,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. “Until we get a more definitive turn in growth, in particular employment, housing demand is going to remain very soft.”

Stocks extended prior gains following the report. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.6 percent to 1,108.8 at 10:04 a.m. in New York. The S&P Supercomposite Homebuilder Index climbed 1.9 percent.

Exceeds Forecast

Economists forecast sales would rise 3.3 percent to an annual pace of 310,000, according to the median of 73 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 260,000 to 360,000. The government had initially estimated May sales at a 300,000 rate.

The median price decreased 0.6 percent from June 2009 to $213,400.

Purchases increased in three of four regions, led by a 46 percent jump in the Northeast and a 33 [percent surge in the South, the largest area. Demand dropped 6.6 percent in the West to a record low 57,000 pace.

The supply of homes at the current sales rate fell to 7.6 months’ worth from 9.6 months in May. There were 210,000 new houses on the market at the end of June, the fewest since 1968.

To become eligible for a federal incentive worth up to $8,000, buyers had to sign contracts by April 30 and close deals by the end of last month. The surge in demand prior to the April deadline prompted the government this month to extend the closing deadline until Sept. 30 to ensure buyers had enough time to complete transactions.

Exiting Homes

Purchases of previously-owned homes, which are tabulated when a contract closes, fell a less-than-forecast 5.1 percent in June, sustained by a backlog of deals waiting to settle, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed last week.

New home sales are calculated when a contract is signed. The drop in sales in May came after demand reached an almost two-year high the prior month, according to last month’s Commerce Department data.

Builder shares have dropped this year as the housing outlook dimmed. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Homebuilder Index, which includes Toll Brothers Inc. and Lennar Corp., has fallen 5.4 percent from Dec. 31 through July 23, while the S&P 500 Index is down 1.1 percent.

With the deadline for signing a contract now past, it will be up to advances in the labor market to support home sales. Private U.S. companies added 83,000 jobs in June, fewer than economists had forecast, and initial jobless claims have averaged 449,700 this month, a sign firings remain elevated.

Mounting Foreclosures

Another challenge to new home sales is the rising tide of foreclosures. Home seizures jumped 38 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, RealtyTrac Inc. said last week, putting lenders on pace to claim more than 1 million properties this year.

NVR Inc., based in Reston, Virginia, said last week the original June 30 closing deadline to qualify for the tax incentive resulted in a “surge in settlement activity” in the second quarter, with closings jumping 63 percent from the same time a year earlier. New orders fell six percent in the second quarter to 2,559 units.

Homebuilders turned more pessimistic this month, with the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo confidence index dropping to 14, the lowest level since April 2009, according to data released last week.

by: C. Schliserman

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tony Hayward's departure from his job as BP's, steps down ?

Tony Hayward's departure from his job as BP's chief executive will be at the center of the agenda when the company's board of directors meets Monday night, according to a source close to the company.

The board is meeting in advance of Tuesday's release of quarterly results, and the directors will weigh how best to confront or defuse criticism as the company unveils its best estimates of massive losses arising from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hayward, a geologist who has spent his entire career at BP, recognizes that he has become "a liability going forward" and is ready to step down, the source close to the company said. The source asked for anonymity because the company has not yet announced its intentions.

Hayward has come under sharp criticism from members of Congress, President Obama and many investment analysts for events leading up to the exploration well blowout. Some of his comments about the spill have been called insensitive to gulf coast residents.

Moreover, the company has struggled to stop not only the flow of oil but the flow of bad publicity, from complaints about the speed of payment of claims to gulf residents to doctoring photographs on its Web site. Some analysts say Hayward's exit would be a statement that someone is taking full responsibility.

One of the front-runners to succeed Hayward would be Robert Dudley, a Mississippi native who joined BP from Amoco after the two companies merged in 1998. Dudley, who was just put in charge of leading gulf coast cleanup efforts, would be the first American to run the company originally known as British Petroleum.

Plug The Damn Hole! anti Obama anti BP oil spill bumper sticker

Another source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that other top executives might also be ousted, but the source close to the company said that decision would be left to the new chief executive.

Among the executives whose positions are widely considered to be tenuous are Andy Inglis, the Houston-based head of global exploration and production who is also leading the relief well effort; Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer who has played a prominent public role in addressing questions about BP's response to claims and cleanup issues; Lamar McKay, the president of BP America who had no responsibility for the exploration well but who has been given the unenviable task of defending the company before Congress.

Additional ousters could come of less prominent people further down the chain of command who might have made improper decisions about the design of the exploration well.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

BP's oil spill is all messed up & could be much worse ?

Found a grat  artical on BP ......
T. -Westra

Sunday, July 17, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been with us nearly three months, and the news just isn't getting better. Even when there's hope of a cleanup, an accident sends us back nearly to square one. The American public is incensed, the finger-pointing refuses to end, the U.S.-British "special relationship" is straining, an offshore moratorium is declared but overruled, and even as the blown-out gulf well was sealed Thursday, anxiety lingered about whether the cap would hold. It's a mess in every sense of the word.

But this could be far worse. Imagine if BP were a state-owned oil company. Instead of reasoning with an incompetent chief executive, we'd be reasoning with a protectionist prime minister. Regarding BP, this is a thought experiment. But there are plenty of state-owned companies drilling in U.S. waters and abroad. The next oil spill could be more than just an economic and environmental crisis. It could be a diplomatic one.

As it is, the BP spill has caused tension between the United States and Britain. President Obama has been accused by British media and officials of xenophobia, waging a campaign of hate, and general "Brit-bashing." British Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, has been criticized for not taking a stronger stance in favor of BP. At a time when some are saying the "special relationship" is over, a tiff over BP isn't exactly what the friendship needs.

Humor me and picture what would happen if BP were owned by the British government. We would be facing a situation in which a foreign government would be directly responsible for the ever-worsening spill on our domestic shores. The United States and Britain have had arguments before, and the nationalistic vitriol coming from both sides would be 10 times worse as issues of blame, recovery costs, national pride, domestic security, and economic competition are endlessly debated between leaders, economists, and cable pundits.

That's still the rosy scenario, because at least Britain is an ally. There are plenty of countries that are not, and they happen to own their oil companies -- Venezuela, China, Iran, and Russia being among the biggest. These petroleum-rich countries are placing more importance on their nationalized oil companies as a way to ensure a steady supply to guard against growing domestic demand and changing market conditions.

The oil industry is dominated by state-owned companies. Multinationals might have more name recognition with the public -- ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron -- but they have full access to 6 percent of worldwide oil reserves. Eighty-eight percent of reserves are held by national oil companies, which also represent the majority of worldwide production. (It's unknown the percentage of oil that state-owned companies get from outside their countries' shores.) Companies such as Aramco, Petrobras, Sinopec and Pemex aren't household names, but they will be as oil becomes scarcer and they can throw around their weight even more due to their dominance of existing oil reserves.

We're already seeing potential hotspots, and the United States isn't the only country that should be worried. Chevron and Rosneft (owned by the Russian government) will begin drilling in the Shatsky Ridge of the Black Sea at the end of 2011. The Black Sea is bordered by Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine -- countries that, to put it lightly, don't always get along. Any substantial accident would be seen as a Russian oil company contaminating its oft-slighted neighbors. Cue the international crisis.

More potential trouble could happen in the South China Sea, where China-owned CNOOC continues to expand its operations. As many as 10 countries surround the South China Sea, and its importance as a major shipping zone and an area of ecological diversity cannot be overstated. It is already a geopolitical hotspot, and any disaster caused by a state-owned company might unravel any diplomatic progress being made.

Even the Gulf of Mexico might see trouble again. Brazil's Petrobras drills in the gulf, and has been ramping up its operations in the area for several years. Brazil has relatively good relations with its neighbors in the Americas, but a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster could significantly change the political dynamics of the region.

It doesn't have to be a blown offshore platform that changes everything. Accidents can happen at any point in the supply chain. A recent death at the Port Arthur, Tex., refinery (owned by Shell and Aramco) highlights the potential for more tension. A substantially destructive accident at any step of the oil extraction, refining or transportation process could stain relations as well.

If we can be sure of one thing in the aftermath of the BP spill, it's that it won't be the last. Countries have not used the BP oil spill to stop offshore development: Deepwater production is anticipated to increase by two-thirds within five years, and state-owned oil companies in general are poised to continue their strong growth.

Strides in renewable energy aren't happening quickly enough to substantially reduce global demand of oil. That oil isn't plentiful enough to be extracted as easily anymore, meaning companies are using more and more potentially dangerous methods to get at it. As BP has shown, danger can only be averted for so long.

Thoughts ? Are you buying BP stock ?

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