128 posts categorized "Economy"


GM offering public tours of Arlington assembly plant

General Motors is offering public tours its Arlington assembly plant for three days this week to see vehicles being produced on the assembly line.

This will be the first public tours since the Super Bowl week 20111, when bad weather and ice forced GM to cancel planned tours.  Tour times are 11:30 to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7:40 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Pre-registration is required and can only be done online at: http://arlington.gmplantnews.com

GM will allow visitors touring the plant during the open house events to bring cameras and take pictures.

Visitors must wear closed-toe shoes. No open-toed, open-heeled shoes or high heels, sandals, crocs or flip flops are allowed in the  manufacturing area.

The GM assembly plant in Arlington began production in January of 1954 and currently employs more than 2,500 people producing GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, and Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicles. The plant produces approximately 1,162 vehicles daily.

- Bob Cox


Private Equity Council releases report

Texas topped the list where private equity firms invested the most money in 2011, the Washington, D.C.-based Private Equity Growth Capital Council said today.

About $21 billion went to 206 Texas-based companies, the group said. Texas was followed by New York, California, North Carolina and Oklahoma.

The organization even goes so far to break it down by congressional districts. Most of the private equity went to congressional districts in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.

Congressional District 18, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston, private equity invested $3 billion in 19 companies.

Congressional District 20, U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, private equity invested $6 billion in 4 companies.

Congressional District 7, U.S. Rep. John Culbertson, R-Houston, private equity invested $373 million in 21 companies.

Congressional District 10, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, private equity invested $814 million in 20 companies.

Congressional District 32, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, private equity invested $2 billion in 17 companies.

In 2011, private equity invested more than $144 billion in the U.S. economy, with 20 states receiving more than $134 billion of that capital, the group said.

"Over the next several months, we expect the general election to amplify the conversation about private equity," said Steve Judge, president of Private Equity Growth Capital Council, in a statement.

_ Sandra Baker


Former Dallas Fed chief McTeer says Congress needs to reach budget compromise

Congress must reach a compromise bill to avert deep automatic spending cuts beginning next year that would cut too deeply into defense, Robert McTeer, the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said in Fort Worth Thursday.

Problem is, the fall elections are in the way, McTeer, who served as Dallas Fed chief between 1991 and 2005, said during a speech at a National Center for Policy Analysis luncheon at Colonial Country Club. The specter of big defense cuts, on top of ones already underway, "might bring the Republicans into a compromise attitude," McTeer said.

But those talks need "to be done real soon, and I don’t see any prospect of that," McTeer, who referred to the looming fight as a "fiscal cliff," said during an interview after the lunch.

The automatic cuts of more than $1 trillion over a decade will occur since Congress didn’t reach an agreement to cut the federal budget deficit last year.

McTeer, a distinguished fellow at the conservative Dallas-based think tank, said the nation’s economic recovery is weaker than appears.

"The numbers really haven’t improved all that much," he said.

Unemployment rates look better because a large number of discouraged jobseekers have left the workforce, housing hasn’t recovered, the fourth quarter’s gross domestic product gain was propped up by a buildup in inventories, and consumers are still smarting from the recessionary hit to their market portfolios and home equity, McTeer said.

Savers are shunning excess spending and boosting savings, good news for the future that nevertheless hurts the economy now, because it’s 70 percent driven by consumer spending, McTeer said.

"We’re better off, unless everybody does it," he said of the savings trend.

He lauded the Federal Reserve’s money-easing policies. "In my opinion, they saved our cookies," McTeer said.

The federal bank bailout, engineered by the Bush Administration in its final weeks in office, "saved the banking system and didn’t cost the taxpayers any money," McTeer said.

The massive federal stimulus package promulgated by President Obama and the Democrats "probably did a bit of good, but at a great fiscal cost," McTeer said.

McTeer was also critical of Obama’s campaign rhetoric proposing higher taxes for the wealthy.

"That’s created a lot of uncertainty and caused people to withdraw," he said.

McTeer questioned Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s recent announcements of its internal forecasts projecting a continued slow recovery.

"I worry about the flexibility he gives up," McTeer said in the interview.

McTeer also said he "personally" believes Bernanke is being conservative in the forecasts and may be looking for a recovery to pick up steam faster than the forecasts.

Of the upcoming budget talks, McTeer said, "it’s not necessary to eliminate the deficit. What’s important is that the deficit and debt as a percentage of GDP start back down. Politically, there’s going to have to be some compromise."

Scott Nishimura


Texas, Fort Worth-Arlington jobless rates drop in March, Workforce Commission says

Texas added 10,900 jobs in March, the Texas Workforce Commission says this morning. Click here to read the st0ry at star-telegram.com.

- Scott Nishimura



Homebuilding increases for third straight quarter in North Texas

The number of new homes under construction was up in the first quarter compared to a year ago, the third straight quarter that new home builders have increased the number of homes they are building, the result of strong sales orders, Metrostudy said Wednesday.

"The increasing sales should lead to larger increases in starts over the next two quarters as backlogs are beginning to build for homebuilders," said David Brown, director of Metrostudy’s Dallas-Fort Worth office. Metrostudy tracks home-building activity in North Texas.

"The first three months of the year are reinforcing our forecast that 2012 will be the first year of recovery in the Dallas-Fort Worth housing market," he said.

Tarrant, Denton and Collin counties accounted for most of the increase in starts, Metrostudy said.

New home closings are also increasing from the second half of 2011, Brown said, and that is expected to continue as well.

Between January and March, 3,192 homes were started, compared to 2,975 homes in the first quarter of 2011. On an annual basis, which takes in the past four quarters, home starts in Dallas-Fort Worth totaled 14,277, down slightly from 14,524 annual starts totaled in the first quarter of 2011, figures show.

In the last three years, quarterly and annual home starts peaked in the second quarter of 2010, during the time the first-time homebuyers were offered a tax incentive.

Also in the first quarter, builders closed the sale of 3,327 homes, up from 3,179 closings in the first quarter of 2011.

Inventory declined significantly in the first quarter, to 7,370 homes built from 7,671 homes a year ago, and is now at its lowest point since 1993, Brown said.

Lot inventory also dropped, to 57,645 lots, or a 48-month supply, from 65,724 lots, a 54-month supply, a year ago.

With the improving new home market, prices could go up this year, particularly in stronger submarkets, Brown said.

"As lot supplies continue to shrink in the high demand submarkets, the cost of replacement lots is increasing," he said. "These higher costs will have to be passed on to the consumer resulting in increased new home prices during the second half of the year."

_ Sandra Baker



Texas' service sector activity grew in March, but at slower pace, Dallas Fed says

Activity in Texas’ service sector increased in March, although some indicators suggested growth slowed, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported today in its monthly Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey.

Services represent 59 percent of the Texas economy, employing nearly 7 million workers.

The survey’s revenue index fell to 16.5 from 22.8, which “suggests revenue growth slowed slightly,” the Dallas Fed said.

Positive readings in the survey indicate expansion.

Labor market: “Indicators also reflected slower growth,” the Fed said. The employment index fell to 7.7, lowest in four months. The hours-worked index “edged down but remained in positive territory.”

Broader economy: General business conditions “remained strong but declined slightly.” The general business activity index moved down to 18.9, its fifth consecutive positive reading.

Indexes of future service sector activity “remained in positive territory,” the Fed said.

The survey’s retail component indicated retail sales rose to 22 from 17.5, “marking 10 consecutive months of sales increases. Inventories rose.”

- Scott Nishimura


Texas unemployment dips to 7.3 percent

Texas employers added 67,200 nonfarm payroll jobs in January and the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent in January, down from 7.4 percent in December and down from 8.1 percent a year earlier. It's the state's lowest jobless rate since April 2009 and compares to the U.S. jobless rate of 8.3 percent. The Texas Workforce Commission said the state has added jobs 21 straight months when compared to the same month the previous year, and payroll jobs are up 258,200 in the past year. Private employers added 73,800 jobs in January, or 332,600 in the past year. TWC Chairman Tom Pauken noted that mining and logging, the category that includes oil and gas, added more than 38,000 jobs in the past year, including 5,700 in January, as crude oil prices have surged.

Nine of the 11 major industry groups added jobs in January, led by professional and business services, which added 18,100 jobs over the month and is up 69,500 jobs in the past year, or 5.3 percent, TWC said today. The report was released later than normal and coincided with the release of the U.S. jobless date for February, which showed the national unemployment rate unchanged at 8.3 percent.

-- Jim Fuquay


Midlothian cement kilns to adopt cleaner technology

Ash Grove Cement Co. filed a permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality seeking to close two of three cement kilns in Midlothian and convert the third kiln to a less-polluting production method,  according to a release issued Monday by Downwinders at Risk. Downwinders says it has worked about 20 years to reduce emissions from cement kilns in the area. It said Ash Grove's permit states that the conversion of the remaining kiln to a "dry" process will cut 105,000 tons of air pollution annually. The facility's capacity will drop from nearly 1.2 million tons of cement annually to 949,000 tons, according to Downwinders' release.

-- Jim Fuquay


BNSF says it will spend about $3.9 billion on capital projects this year, up $400 milliion

BNSF Railway Co. said Wednesday it planned a 2012 capital commitment of about $3.9 billion, $400 million over what it spent in 2011.

About $2.1 billion of the plan will be BNSF's core network and related assets, the company said. BNSF also plans to spend about $1.1 billion on locomotive, freight car, and other equipment acquisitions; $300 million for federally-mandated "positive train control" technology to help reduce risk of accidents; and $400 million for terminal, line, and intermodal expansion and efficiency projects that will be focused on coal routes and the new BNSF intermodal center at Kansas City.

"Investment in BNSF's rail freight infrastructure is an investment in American jobs and competitiveness," Matt Rose, BNSF's CEO, said in a release. "It will ensure our infrastructure remains strong and improve the efficiency of our operations."

A BNSF spokesman said the company expected to have a breakdown by market in three to six weeks of the planned expenditures.

- Scott Nishimura


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


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