Monthly Archives: November 2008

Wall Street Closes Early with Modest Gains: 8,829

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are ending a shortened session higher as investors cap a week of enormous gains with a focus on retailers.

The stock market has closed three hours early Friday with moderate gains and has extended the advance of the broader market to five straight sessions. Financial and industrial stocks have outpaced energy and technology names.

The Dow Jones industrial average is ending up 102, or 1.2 percent, at the 8,829 level.

Good Black Friday to you

Reporter Andy Binion and myself will be out talking to shoppers today in Silverdale. Say hi to us. A protest is slated at the corner of Kitsap Mall Boulevard and Randall Way against war toys by the Ground Zero people. If you were one of the early birds this morning, post your experience here.

Not so much good news with Wal-Mart. This on the wire today:


Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down

NEW YORK (AP) — Police say a Wal-Mart worker has died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers shortly after the Long Island store opened Friday.

Nassau County police say the 34-year-old worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened. The cause of death was not immediately known.

A police statement says a throng of shoppers “physically broke down the doors, knocking him to the ground.” Police also say a 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in Bentonville, Ark., would not confirm the reports of a stampede during the day-after-Thanksgiving bargain hunting, but said a “medical emergency” caused them to close the store.


Let me know


This is Rachel, business and social-services reporter for the Kitsap Sun. This is a brand-new blog, and you and I can make anything we want of it. I’ve started running wire stories, updated three times a day, along with local news. But there’s much more we could do. I could put out a call to businesses and employers to post their latest news here. Another idea is starting a layoff ledger that lists local companies that have laid off people recently. The Seattle Times and other newspapers, usually a little larger, do this. Or, you could post your stories about special employees and efforts in your businesses that are helping you through these tough times. I could invited opinion pieces from you on the economy and local issues. Post here, e-mail or call me and tell me your thoughts on the direction you’d like to see us go.




Commercial properties mortgage crisis looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — The full scope of the housing meltdown isn’t clear and already there are ominous signs of a new crisis — one that could turn out the lights on malls, hotels and storefronts nationwide.

Even as the holiday shopping season begins in full swing, the same events poisoning the housing market are now at work on commercial properties, and the bad news is trickling in. Malls from Michigan to Georgia are entering foreclosure.

Hotels in Tucson, Ariz., and Hilton Head, S.C., also are about to default on their mortgages.

That pace is expected to quicken. The number of late payments and defaults will double, if not triple, by the end of next year, according to analysts from Fitch Ratings Ltd., which evaluates companies’ credit.

“We’re probably in the first inning of the commercial mortgage problem,” said Scott Tross, a real estate lawyer with Herrick Feinstein in New Jersey.

That’s bad news for more than just property owners. When businesses go dark, employees lose jobs. Towns lose tax revenue. School budgets and social services feel the pinch.

Obama adds econ advisers, says ‘help on the way’

CHICAGO (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama pledged on Wednesday to have an economic plan ready for action on the nation’s financial crisis on his first day in office. “Help is on the way,” he declared.

He also said his Cabinet would “combine experience with fresh thinking” and pushed back against criticism that he was recycling former Clinton administration officials as he builds his new economic team.

In his third news conference on the economy in as many days, Obama announced he had chosen former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to head a new White House panel to help create jobs and bring stability to the ailing financial system.

Volcker, 81, will head the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. The board’s top staff official will be Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist.

Volcker is a legendary central banker who raised interest rates and restricted the money supply to tame raging inflation in the 1980s. It was a painful prescription that helped send the economy into one of the nation’s worst recessions.

“He pulls no punches,” Obama said of Volcker. “He seems to be fairly opinionated.”

National business briefs

Congress expecting more sacrifices from automakers

DETROIT (AP) — A list of job cuts, shuttered factories, canceled bonuses and commitments to fuel-efficient cars won’t be enough next week when U.S. automakers get another shot to persuade Congress to give them $25 billion in loans. Through the Thanksgiving weekend, teams will be tagging more meat to throw at skeptical lawmakers who vilified the automakers’ top executives the last time they went to Washington. That means executive pay cuts, union concessions, and perhaps even higher fuel economy requirements and a glimpse at top-secret product plans.


Oil prices tumble; gas falls to 2004 levels

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Oil prices fell nearly 7 percent Tuesday and gasoline prices fell to levels not seen since 2004 as a raft of lousy news about the economy, housing and the consumer state of mind suggested the U.S. is headed toward the worst recession in decades. Consumers and businesses have pulled back on energy spending, with massive layoffs and cost-cutting across almost every sector. That means less money will go toward powering everything from industrial plants to automobiles. Light, sweet crude for January delivery on Tuesday tumbled $3.73 to settle at $50.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Obama: Economic rescue will trump deficit fight

CHICAGO (AP) — The economy growing weaker, President-elect Barack Obama said Tuesday that recovery efforts will trump deficit concerns when he takes office in January. Yet he pledged a ”page-by-page, line-by-line” budget review to root out unneeded spending. The president-elect set no goals for reducing the federal deficit — now in record territory and headed ever higher — an obvious contrast to Monday’s announcement that he hopes to create a recession-busting 2.5 million jobs by 2010.


FDIC adds 54 more banks to its ‘problem list’

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday the list of banks it considers to be in trouble shot up nearly 50 percent to 171 during the third quarter — yet another sign of escalating problems among the institutions controlling Americans’ deposits. The 171 banks on the FDIC’s “problem list” encompass only about 2 percent of the nearly 8,500 FDIC-insured institutions. Still, the increase from 117 in the second quarter is sharp, and the current tally is the highest since late 1995.


DR Horton swings to $800 million loss

(AP) — D.R. Horton Inc.’s chief executive said Tuesday he expects this fiscal year to be even more challenging than 2008, which ended with a nearly $800 million quarterly loss on slower home sales and more than $1 billion in charges. The Fort Worth, Texas-based homebuilder reported a net loss of $799.9 million, or $2.53 a share, compared to a loss of $50.1 million or 16 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Total sales for the quarter were $1.75 billion, down from $3.12 billion in the fourth quarter 2007. The company sold 6,961 homes in the fourth quarter, down 41percent from year-ago levels.


AIG restricts exec compensation, CEO gets a dollar

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — American International Group Inc. said Tuesday it is limiting how much it pays its top executives, including granting a $1 salary for this year and the same for 2009 to its Chief Executive Edward Liddy. The decision is one of many broader moves made by the troubled. The New York-based insurer, which has been under pressure to restrict executive pay since accepting billions in government assistance to save it from collapse. has received about $150 billion so far, more than any other company.


Fannie Mae names Johnson chief financial officer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fannie Mae said Tuesday it named David Johnson to serve as the mortgage giant’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, beginning immediately. Johnson joins the company from Hartford Financial Services Group, where he served as chief financial officer and executive vice president. His predecessor at Fannie Mae, Stephen Swad, left the company in August and was temporarily replaced by David C. Hisey, formerly Fannie’s senior vice president and controller.


First signs of consolidation in ethanol industry

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The first salvo may have been fired this week in a long-awaited shakeout for the U.S. ethanol industry. VeraSun Energy Corp., the nation’s No. 2 ethanol producer, announced it had received an unsolicited takeover bid one month after seeking bankruptcy protection, and just hours after the nation’s biggest producer, Poet LLC, said it was talking with other companies about buyouts. 

Report: Kitsap business licenses up; sales down in Silverdale

Bloggers: We have received the chart of economic indicators for Kitsap County for October 2008 from the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance. For my money, it’s by far the most comprehensive set of indicators that tells how we’re doing as a whole. You’ll see that business-license applications have spiked, and experts have told me more people are becoming entrepreneurs to ride out the recession. Also note that retail sales in unincorporated Kitsap County (translates to Silverdale) are down sharply. Here is the link. Rachel

Bogus e-mail causes confusion over holiday gift card

Blogger, we know gift-card sales this holiday season are expected to fall 6 percent over last year. This can’t help. Rachel



Raleigh News & Observer

An ominous e-mail has made the round of inboxes recently, warning shoppers not to purchase gift cards from a long list of stores because, it claims, they are failing.

The e-mail says in part: “Stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the (gift) cards through the holidays even though the cards will be worthless January 1. There is no law preventing them from doing this.” The warning is followed by a list of stores that are supposedly closing.

As with many rumors, the e-mail does contain some truth. Some stores listed, such as Linens ‘N Things, are indeed in the process of liquidation.

Some of the e-mail is old news.

For instance, the e-mail says chains such as The Sharper Image and Wilson’s Leather will go out of business. Both chains have already shut down.

Other statements are completely false.

For instance, Talbot’s, which also owns the J. Jill women’s apparel chain, has no plans to close either chain, despite what the e-mail claims.

Talbot’s is trying to sell J. Jill, and it did close down its Talbot’s Mens and Talbot’s Kids divisions this year.

Company spokeswoman Betsy Thompson said Talbot’s has had so many inquiries over the past week that the company made an exception to its policy to not address rumors by posting a statement on its Web site.

“As this was potentially damaging to the relationship and the trust we have with our customers, we felt it was important to state otherwise — to state the facts,” Thompson said.

Consumers should trust their intuition when it comes to such “warning” e-mails, said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

“It’s unfortunate that the spectrum of this e-mail has been this wide,” she said. “Retailers have been very forthcoming this year with announcing store closures. … There’s no such thing as leaking a store closing.”

Shoppers should also note that a chain closing stores does not necessarily mean the company is going out of business, Grannis added.

“Closing and opening new stores is really a cycle that happens every day, every year,” she said.

The timing is really bad for retailers who are already looking at a bad holiday shopping season. The last thing they need is for false information to keep shoppers away.

“No one wants to look at (going from) being down 5 percent to being down 12 because of a bad rumor,” said Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson of Talbot’s said she does not know of any plans the chain has to try to prosecute the people who started the rumor.

“I don’t know if we ever could,” she said. “It’s quite possible it’s someone who misinterpreted this information. … You know, somebody is trying to be helpful in passing this along. But you have to ask about where did the information come from and is it accurate.”

Few flying this Thanksgiving

CHICAGO (AP) — Travelers breezed through airport terminals Wednesday and drivers cruised open roads, the effects of a sour economy blamed for keeping people closer to home at the start of the annual Thanksgiving rush.

Even though gas prices fell and airlines offered last-minute deals, many Americans appeared to be skipping trips this year. San Francisco resident Sharon McKellar called the Miami airport “shockingly quiet” after flying in overnight to visit family.

At Boston’s Logan International Airport, Alicia Kelly, 47, traveling with her husband and two children to Miami to spend the holidays with her family, said it was the lightest Thanksgiving travel she’s ever seen. “We have waited in no lines so far,” she said.

Security lines moved along briskly at under 10 minutes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, travelers found parking spots in the front row of the lot and no wait for check-in and security. The Delta terminal was nearly empty.

“This is crazy. There’s no one here. It’s quieter than on most weekdays,” said Ryan Sullivan, who was flying to New York with his wife and two kids.

Nationally, the Automobile Association of America says 41 million Americans were expected to travel over 50 miles for the holiday, down about 1.5 percent or 600,000 people from last Thanksgiving. Flying is expected to be down more sharply, about 7 percent, than about 1 percent for driving.

“The economy is in such bad shape. … They’re still really hesitant to take that trip,” said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA Chicago.

Even though airlines offered last-minute fares in an attempt to get more people in the air, it may take until after the first of the year to know if it worked, said Graeme Wallace, chief technical officer for, a consumer airline ticket research Web site.

“With the economy tanking, they’re thinking, ‘Do I want to spend $400 for a 1,200 mile trip?”’ Wallace said.

Good Wednesday to you: Dow at 8,547 this morning

NEW YORK (AP) — A mostly downbeat batch of economic news gave investors a reason to cash in some of their recent gains Wednesday, leaving stock prices widely mixed. Blue chips pulled back, while tech stocks that have lagged the market were rallying.

Wall Street is coming off three sessions of gains that gave the Dow Jones industrials and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index their first triple-session advances in more than two months, so some retrenchment wasn’t surprising.