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17 posts from August 2012


Sam Moon Trading Co. sets opening date for new Arlington store

ARLINGTON — Sam Moon Trading Co., a retailer of women’s accessories, jewelry and handbags, will open its Arlington store near the Parks at Arlington mall on Aug. 24.

The new store, 1112 W. Arbrook Blvd., will be the company’s fourth Dallas-Fort Worth location, but seventh in Texas.

"We have wanted to open near the Parks Mall in Arlington for several years," said Daniel Moon, vice president. "We feel that this store will help us reach out to new customers in southern Tarrant County. You will often find the very latest trendy items in Sam Moon months before you can find them in department stores."

Sam Moon is located at Alliance Town Center in north Fort Worth. It also has stores in Dallas, Frisco, Austin and Houston. The company plans a store in San Antonio next year and two more stores in 2014, although those locations were not disclosed.

The Arlington location, in a portion of a former Linens ‘N Things, will be about 17,000 square feet and feature handbags, jewelry, scarves, belts, hair accessories and shoes.

The store, open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, will employ 35 to 40 workers.

The first Sam Moon store opened in Dallas in 1984.

_ Sandra Baker


North Texas existing home sales up 23 percent in July

Existing homes sales in North Texas continued to rebound in July with sales figures showing another double-digit increase from a year ago, according to the latest monthly housing activity report.

Real estate agents sold 7,487 homes in the 29-county North Texas area, a 23 percent jump from July of 2012, according to the report compiled by sales numbers through the multiple listing service by the Texas A&M Real Estate Center.

And through July, 43,420 homes were sold, a 16 percent increase from year-to-date totals of 2012, the report said.

Pending sales in July totaled 6,634 homes, up 20 percent from a year ago. The median sales price was also up 10 percent, to $166,700.

Home sales are up in many areas because low mortgage interest rates are drawing out buyers who have sitting on the sidelines waiting for improvements in the economy, housing economists have said.

In Tarrant County, several Arlington neighborhoods, including northeast, central east and southeast Arlington, and Mansfield saw huge gains, as did the Northeast Tarrant County communities of Grapevine, Southlake, North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, and Trophy Club.

_ Sandra Baker

NRG plans small electricity generation project

NRG Energy, the second-largest power generator in Texas, said today it will build a 75-megawatt gas-fired plant that will feed electricity to the state's biggest grid in peak demand periods for about two years. After that it will power a CO2 capture project at a coal-fired plant south of Houston around 2015. NRG said the new facility, a combustion turbine that can ramp up in minutes, could come online next summer. It's expected to operate about two years as what's called a "peaking" unit -- one that only fires up at times of high electricity demand. That could help the state maintain power reserves when capacity is expected to be tight starting in 2014. By 2015, however, the unit is then expected to provide the energy to recover carbon dioxide from the flue of NRG's big WA Parish power plant. That CO2 will then be piped to oilfields and injected into producing formations to boost crude oil recovery as well as sequester the CO2, a greenhouse gas. The CO2 recovery project is partly funded by the Department of Energy.

-- Jim Fuquay


Energy Future Holdings to terminate pension for some employees

Energy Future Holdings, the former TXU Corp., plans to freeze its pensions effective Sept. 25 and terminate them by year's end. Benefits due affected employees will either be paid in a lump sum or as a monthly annuity, it told workers in a letter dated Aug. 7. The company said it will contribute about $200 million to its pension plan to bring up to fully funded status and distribute assets due at year's end. A company spokesman said the move affects less than a third of its workforce. Not affected are employees covered by collective bargaining contracts and employees of EFH's Oncor Electric Delivery subsidiary. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, EFH said it expects to take a charge of $150 million in the fourth quarter to cover the expense of the move.

TXU had closed its traditional defined benefit pension to new hires in 2002, moving to a "cash balance" plan, which functions mostly like a traditional pension. But with its buyout in 2007, the company also closed the cash balance plan to new hires in favor of a 401(k) savings plan. The 401(k) plan continues with an improved employer match of 100 percent (up from 75 percent) of worker contributions up to 6 percent of their pay, according to the letter.

Pension consultants have expected employers to terminate more pensions in 2012 thanks to a federal rule change that allowed employers to use generally higher interest rate assumptions to calculate the benefits owed. Using higher interest rates reduces employers' costs of making a lump sum payout or buying an annuity on employees' behalf. (Vanguard Investments has a good explainer here. Kiplinger, the personal finance advisor, has a report on the trend here.)

-- Jim Fuquay


FW home prices dip in the first quarter, but expected to rise by 2013


Fort Worth area home prices dipped slightly in the first quarter when compared to the same quarter a year ago, but are forecast to rise 1.4 percent by the first quarter of next year, according to the latest Fiserv Case-Shiller analysis of nationwide home price trends released today.

Area home prices dipped 0.5 percent, but are expected to rise 1.4 percent by the first quarter of 2013, Fiserv said.

Home prices rose in 40 percent, or 151 of the 384 U.S. metro areas in the report, likely the result of shrinking inventory of home for sale, said Fiserv, which uses Federal Housing Finance Agency data.

Average home prices nationwide are expected to rise 5 percent between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, with most markets seeing upticks in prices beginning next spring. In all, Fiserv predicts price increases in 358 of the 384 metro areas in the report.

"Inventories of single-family homes have dropped below 2.5 million units, the lowest levels since 2004," said David Stiff, Fiserv’s chief economist, in a statement. "This shrinking supply of unsold homes is nudging home prices upward in selected markets. However, negative equity remains a factor constraining supply in some markets, since many underwater homeowners cannot come up with the cash to cover the difference between their outstanding mortgage balances and the current market value of their homes. Many positive equity homeowners are also keeping their houses off of the market, waiting for price increases to boost their selling profits."

The report said price gains were recorded in markets hard-hit by the housing crash, including Detroit, 8.6 percent, and Miami, 6.4 percent.

Prices fell 17.4 percent in Atlanta, 7.4 percent in Las Vegas and 4.7 percent in Memphis.

_ Sandra Baker


FW's Lucky Lady Oil sells land near Stockyards to restaurant company

It’s taken more than a decade to sell, but a Carrollton-based restaurant group has bought the Lucky Lady Oil property at NE 28th Street and Ellis Avenue near the Historic Stockyards.

The sale included four buildings totaling 22,791 square feet of space on a nearly 2-acre tract, said Ted St. Clair, a broker with CASE Commercial Real Estate Partners, who has listed the property since it was put on the block in 2001.

RC&C Llc., headed by Ricardo CamarenaÖ and Cinthia MogasÖ , plans to tear down the buildings by the end of the year and build a restaurant, said Jesus AraizaÖ , with Armada Commercial Real Estate, who represented RC&C in the deal that closed in mid-June.

RC&C operates El Pollo Regio fried chicken restaurants, he said.

Sue Palmer, owner of Lucky Lady Oil and a former state legislator, put the company’s headquarters up for sale after filing for Chapter 11 reorganization. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2004.

Lucky Lady Oil Co. is an oil jobber, a company that buys oil from major oil companies and sells it to customers.

St. Clair said Lucky Lady will move out of the space by the fall. The company is currently looking to downsize into space off Blue Mound Road in north Fort Worth, he said.

Lucky Lady Oil has been ranked among the Top 500 women-owned businesses in the U.S. by Working Woman magazine. Palmer was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1996 and served two terms.

 _ Sandra Baker











Tarrant County home sales, statewide jump in second quarter


Texas home sales were up 13 percent in the second quarter from a year ago and the median price rose 7 percent, the latest Texas Quarterly Housing Report by the Texas Association of Realtors said.

"The momentum we saw in the first quarter of this year is continuing and we’re seeing that now not only in increased sales volume, but also in a strong increase in the median price," said Joe Stewart, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. "That is good news for Texas homeowners who have been thinking of moving up, but who have remained on the sidelines because they’re concerned about earning full value for their current home."

In the second quarter of 2012, 67,334 single family homes were sold in Texas. The median price in the second quarter was $161,400.

In Arlington, 1,175 homes were sold in the second quarter, a 12 percent increase. The median price was $135,500, a 9.8 percent increase.

In Fort Worth, 2,466 homes were sold, a 0.28 percent increase. The median price rose 8.7 percent to $119,600.

In Northeast Tarrant County, 2,320 homes were sold, an 18.7 percent increase. The median price rose 6.2 percent to $179,300.

Jim Gaines, a real estate economist at the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, which compiled the report, said increases in sales volume and median price was felt in most of the state’s 48 submarkets.

In addition to improvements in sales volume and median price, the "months inventory" figure improved, he said, indicating the balance between supply and demand in the real estate market.

Statewide, the market has 5.9 months of inventory in the second quarter, which ended June 30, or 2.2 months less than the same quarter a year ago.

"Texas is bordering on a sellers’ market," Gaines said. "However, I think that is due as much to a decrease in supply – from fewer foreclosures, lack of new speculative home building and apprehensive homeowners not listing properties – as it is to increasing demand. Nonetheless, homebuyers should expect competition for desirable properties."

_ Sandra Baker


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