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62 posts from January 2012


Texas service sector improves, Dallas Fed reports

Texas service sector activity increased in January, the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank said Tuesday in its monthly Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey.

The Texas service sector represents 59 percent of the state economy and employs close to 7 million workers.

The revenue index--a key measure -- rose to 13.7 from 9.8, with 32 percent of respondents noting revenue increased from December.

Positive readings in the survey generally indicate expansion of service sector activity.

Labor market indicators reflected “stronger hiring and slightly longer workweeks,” the Dallas Fed said. The employment index moved up to 12.4 from 8.8, its best reading in 10 months.

Perceptions of general business conditions “improved markedly” in January, with the general business activity index jumping to 18.3, its best reading since December 2010.

Indexes of future service sector activity “generally improved” from last month, and expectations regarding future business conditions were “more optimistic,” the Dallas Fed said.

 In the survey’s Texas Retail Outlook, retail sales increased in January, according to business executives responding to the retail portion of the survey. The sales index edged down to 12.1 from 13.7, eight consecutive months of sales increases.

 “Indexes of future retail sector activity remained in solid positive territory in January,” the Dallas Fed said.

- Scott Nishimura

RadioShack shares finish day off 30 percent

Wall Street pounded RadioShack shares Tuesday, a day after the company said its profits would come in sharply lower than expected.

RadioShack shares closed Tuesday off $3.05 to $7.18 on the New York Stock Exchange. Several securities analysts cut their ratings on the stock.

- Scott Nishimura

CBS 11 hosting free video resume tapings Wednesday

CBS 11 is hosting a free video resume taping 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday Feb. 1 at its Fort Worth and Dallas studios.

"Local job seekers are encouraged to visit the station during this time to record a one-minute video resume highlighting their skills and experience," CBS 11 says. "Each individual will be provided with professional hair and/or makeup services prior to the taping if he or she desires. The videos will be posted on CBSDFW.com for prospective employers to review."

The CBS 11 and TXA 21 studios are at 5233 Bridge St. in Fort Worth and 10111 North Central Expressway in Dallas. "Resumes will be recorded on a first-come, first-served basis as time allows," CBS 11 said.

The tapings are part of “Now Hiring,” the CBS 11/TXA 21 ongoing initiative to help job hunters. The initiative includes broadcasting a “Job of the Day” opening at a local employer, updates on Dallas-Fort Worth area job fairs and corporate relocations/expansions, and call-in events that connect viewers to jobs experts.

Scott Nishimura

Christus Health to relocate hundreds of jobs to Irving

Christus Health, which describes itself as one the country's 10 largest Catholic healthcare systems, expects to bring hundreds of new jobs to North Texas as it consolidates its corporate offices in Irving. Christus said it will relocate employees who now work out of Houston and San Antonio to Irving, where it has been headquartered since 2000 at 6363 N. Texas 161 in Las Colinas. It expects soon to announce plans to lease up to 200,000 square feet of space in a different location, chief administrative officer Linda McClung said Tuesday. The move is expected to start in summer and be complete by the middle of 2013, and could result in Christus expanding its headquarters employment from about 40 today to as many as 700, McClung said.

While Christus has only one facility in North Texas, St. Joseph Village senior housing in Coppell, it has scores of hospitals, clinics and other health services in seven states and Mexico. According to its website, in its 2011 fiscal year it reported $3.6 billion in net patient revenue and net operating income of $99.7 million.

In a prepared release, the organization's CEO, Ernie Sadau, said consolidating operations will help trim costs about $60 million over 10 years, boost efficiency "and increase the value the system services provide to our patient care ministries." 

-- Jim Fuquay

Dallas-Fort Worth home prices drop in November along with other major U.S. cities, S&P/Cash Shiller says

Dallas-Fort Worth home prices declined in November along with prices in most of the nation’s largest metro areas, the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday.

The monthly report showed prices dropping 0.8 percent locally. Prices also dropped 1.3 percent in November over October.

November was the second month in row that prices declined in 19 of the 20 cities in the index over October prices. Prices in the 20 markets are down, on average, 3.7 percent, the report said.

"Despite continued low interest rates and better real growth domestic product growth in the fourth quarter, home prices continue to fall," said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, in a statement. "The only positive for the month was Phoenix, one of the hardest hit in recent years. Nationally, home prices are lower than a year ago. The trend is down and there are few, if any, signs in the numbers that a turning point is close at hand."

Home prices nationwide have dropped about 33 percent since a peak in 2006, the report said.

The Atlanta area felt the biggest drop in prices from a year ago, and is down 11.8 percent in November. Detroit, also one of the hardest hit housing markets, saw prices rise 3.8 percent in November.

_ Sandra Baker

In addition to Dallas-Fort Worth, prices were down 0.2 percent in Denver, and down 0.5 percent in Washington, the only areas where prices dropped less than 1 percent in November, the report said.

RadioShack shares down sharply on weak outlook

When RadioShack announced late Monday that it didn't earn nearly as much as expected in last year's fourth quarter (and that 2012 wasn't looking so hot, either), investors pummeled the electronics retailer's shares in after-hours trading. And with additional time overnight to ponder the Fort Worth-based company's disclosure, investors pounded the stock (ticker: RSH) even worse when regular trading opened today. The shares were down nearly 30 percent by late morning.

For our full report, click here.

-- Jim Fuquay

Hillwood in Fort Worth hires market veteran to run apartment division

Hillwood Properties, developer of Alliance in north Fort Worth, plans a big push in apartment building in the next decade and said Tuesday it has hired a veteran in the multifamily market to lead those efforts.

Hillwood said it has brought on Mark McHenry as a vice president, who most recently led the southwest regional multifamily development operations for Atlanta-based Lane Co. to oversee the construction of about 3,000 apartments in the next 10 years at Alliance Town Center. McHenry also headed regional multifamily operations for JPI and United Dominion Realty Trust.

Housing demands at Alliance are greater because of the growing employment base there and the surrounding area, Hillwood said.

"We are committed to the multifamily product sector as a key component of our business strategy going forward," said Ross Perot, Jr., Hillwood’s chairman, in a statement. "The multifamily strategy complements our other core business lines at AllianceTexas. The ability to deliver quality multifamily housing as a residential option serves to enhance the appeal of the region for corporate employers, and retail and service companies evaluating the location or expansion of their business operations in the AllianceTexas region."

Hillwood currently has land zoned for more than 5,000 apartments, and that is located just east of Alliance Town Center, the 900-acre section in Alliance along Interstate 35W from North Tarrant Parkway to Golden Triangle Boulevard.

So far, Monterra Village, a 288-unit community south of North Tarrant Parkway, between I-35W and North Riverside Drive, is the only multifamily project in the 17,000-acre master-planned development. It opened in 2008 as the first smoke-free property in the Metroplex. Occupancy at Monterra Village stays at about 95 percent, Hillwood said.

In November, Hillwood said it has plans to add 262 units at Monterra Village. At that time, Hillwood said it has also built 7,645 homes at Alliance neighborhoods of Park Glen, Heritage and Saratoga. Hillwood recently announced a joint venture project with Realty Capital Management in Dallas to start building homes in the 1,000-acre Belmont project in Northlake and Argyle, just north of Alliance. Lots should be ready for home-building in the spring 2013.

Alliance Town Center has more than 850,000 square feet of existing retail space, but it also includes other office, medical and commercial uses. North Hills Hospital has opened an emergency room at Alliance Town Center and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance is scheduled to open this fall.

The pace of construction of the apartment communities, as well as their size, design and amenities, will be market-driven, Hillwood said. But, the developer said it anticipates building a new community every 12- to 18-months.

In addition to hiring McHenry, Hillwood also has brought in-house the management team for its multifamily division. Stephanie Isham was hired as property manager for Monterra Village. Isham previously served in senior property manager roles with Lincoln Property Co. and Riverstone Residential Group. Also, Christine Adeeb and Amy Perez, who have served as leasing consultants at Monterra Village for three years, have been hired as full-time Hillwood associates.

"We believe keeping management in-house gives us the best opportunity to control the operating expenses at our properties, while maintaining a consistent level of product quality and resident services that will lead to higher resident retention rates," said Mike Berry, Hillwood president.

_ Sandra Baker


RadioShack shares plunge on preliminary earnings

Fort Worth-based electronics retailer RadioShack said Monday it expects to earn between 11 and 13 cents a share, a fraction of the 37 cents Wall Street was expecting for the fourth quarter and the 51 cents a share it reported a year earlier. The news was disclosed just after the close of regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange, but the company's shares (ticker: RSH) were down about 18 percent in after-hours trading. RadioShack said it will report its final earnings on Feb. 21.

In its preliminary earnings statement, RadioShack said it expects revenues to rise about 6 percent to %$1.39 billion, with sales up 2 percent at stores open at least a year, an important performance measure for retailers. But its gross profit margin slipped tp 35 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to 41 percent a year earlier. It said the narrower margin reflected a sales shift to lower-margin smartphones and mobile devices, a more promotional holiday selling season and more mobility sales due to its growth of operations in Target stores.  Overall, the results "are due in large part to the underperformance of the Spring postpaid wireless business and reflect further unanticipated changes in Sprint's custom and credit models," RadioShack said.

CEO Jim Gooch said RadioShack expects 2012 net profit to be down from 2011, especially in the first quarter. He said the company also suspended share buybacks for the near term but will continue to pay a quarterly dividend.

-- Jim Fuquay

Fort Worth area home prices to rise less than 1 percent by third quarter, study finds

 Home prices in Fort Worth are expected to rise 0.8 percent by the third quarter, according to Fiserv-Case Shiller.

The increase would be a 1.4 percent gain in home prices when compared to prices in the third quarter of 2011, figures show.

Fiserv-Case Shiller said home prices will see modest gains in 172 of the 384 U.S. markets the home price index by the third quarter. On average, home prices are expected to rise 3.8 percent by third quarter of 2013, Fiserv-Case Shiller said.

Current average home prices nationwide are now about 33 percent below the 2006 peak, the group said. Home prices fell in 337 of the 384 markets Fiserv-Case Shiller tracks.

"While prices continued to fall in most markets, sales activity picked up at the end of 2011, setting the foundation for price stabilization in 2012," said David Stiff, Fiserv’s chief economist.

Stiff said the monthly mortgage payment for the median-priced U.S. home fell to $640 in third quarter, down about 45 percent from the housing bubble peak of $1,150.

_ Sandra Baker


Fort Worth-Arlington mortgage deliquency rate drops in November, CoreLogic says

The percentage of homeowners in the Fort Worth-Arlington metro area 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgages dipped to 5.29 percent in November from 5.47 percent in the same month a year ago, according to a CoreLogic report Monday.

At the same time, the foreclosure rate, or the percentage of loans in some stage of the foreclosure process, fell to 1.5 percent in November, down from 1.58 percent in November 2010, figures show.

The 90-day delinquency rate is higher than the statewide rate of 4.71 percent in November, but lower than the national rate of 7.23 percent.

Regarding the foreclosure rate, in November the statewide foreclosure rate was 1.42 percent, and 3.41 percent nationally.

The Fort Worth-Arlington area includes Tarrant, Parker, Johnson and Wise counties.

_ Sandra Baker


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