Monthly Archives: April 2011

Earnings drive Tuesday stocks to new 2011 highs

Dow now at 12,595, up 155 points today.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks jumped to their highest levels in nearly three years Tuesday thanks to signs that earnings are rising for U.S. companies and consumers are feeling more confident about the economy. The Russell 2000, the benchmark index of small companies, neared a record high.
The new highs continue a historic recovery in the stock market. Stock indexes have more than doubled since hitting a 12-year low in March, 2009. The fastest bull market since the 1950s has now erased most of the losses stemming from the financial crisis.
Investors who bought at the top of the market in 2007 have now lost 4.2 percent, including reinvested dividends. Analysts predict stocks will continue to rise if unemployment keeps falling and global demand leads to more profit growth.

Bremerton Ambulance workers turn down union

BREMERTON — Bremerton Ambulance workers, voting for a second time, have turned down the prospect of union representation.
The vote was around 23 to 15, according to Kim Doyle, Bremerton Ambulance executive director.
The vote was Thursday, and followed a hotly contested election on March 1 in which union representatives alleged the company unduly swayed the outcome by preventing four workers in its outlying stations to come to the main office in Bremerton to vote.
Doyle said that was not true.
The initial vote failed by three, 19 to 16.
The International Association of EMTs and Paramedics filed an objection with the National Labor Relations Board, and a second vote was held.
Bremerton Ambulance employs about 50 workers including emergency medical technicians, paramedics, dispatchers, nurses, shift supervisors and training officers.
The workers had a union in the past, but have been without one in recent years.
Layoffs at the end of the year and the fear they could be next appeared to be part of what fueled consideration of a union.

— Rachel Pritchett

Monday stocks fall at onset of full week of earnings

Dow starts out today at 12,453, minus 52 points.

NEW YORK (AP) — Mixed corporate earnings reports sent stock indexes wobbling Monday.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 12,468 in midday trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,334. The Nasdaq composite edged up less than 0.1 percent to 2,821.
Stocks fell broadly. Technology companies were the only one of the 10 company groups that make up the S&P index to edge higher. Traders said rising commodity costs were making investors cautious.
“It’s becoming harder to become overly exuberant over backwards-looking earnings when it’s clear that consumers’ pocketbooks are getting squeezed over higher gasoline costs,” said Paul Zemsky, a market strategist at ING Investment Management. “Given that we’re near the … highs for the year, we’re certainly not adding to our (stock) positions until we get a sense of what these oil prices mean to the consumer.”
Johnson Controls Inc. fell more than 3 percent after the auto parts supplier said it expects revenue to drop by $500 million in the third quarter due to the earthquake in Japan.

Bainbridge waterfront home auctioned off for half assessed value

By Rachel Pritchett

PORT ORCHARD — At times, the Friday-morning foreclosure auctions outside the Kitsap County Administration Building can take your breath away.
That happened to me April 15, when one of the largest foreclosures properties of the year, the aborted Blossom Hill development on Bainbridge Island, went back to the bank on a couple of mortgages totaling $27 million that went bad.
This past Friday, I watched a waterfront home on Bainbridge Island auctioned off to an investor for $226,000, less than half its assessed value.
Foreclosure deals so common these days can yield a lot of money for investors. But there’s also risk, and unforeseen expenses can turn things south quickly for novices who don’t know what they’re doing.
About six bidders stood ready to sweep in as three dozen others watched with interest. That’s unusual — lots of foreclosed home simply revert to the banks. No one shows.
But Crystal Springs Drive on southwest Bainbridge Island has a stunning view of passing ferries and boaters. It’s in a historic community focused on the Point White Dock, a popular place for anglers and swimmers.
The minimum bid on the house was $93,484.
Bidding started with several people upping each other in painfully small increments of $100. Then it narrowed down to a couple of bidders, but it wasn’t over for a good half hour.
I spoke with Steven Hughes of Hughes Construction of Bainbridge Island. He claimed the homeowner owed him $105,000 for a renovation he did a few years back. He wanted his money.
The problem with the Crystal Springs Drive house, at least according to Hughes, is that it sits at the bottom of a steep bank. He claims the house has foundation cracks.
“It’s a gorgeous view, but when you have a bank behind the house like that, it’s scary,” he said.
With foreclosure sales, it’s no sure thing the deal that’s hoped for will be the deal delivered. Foreclosure buyers need steel stomachs and live with the prospect there may be unknown expenses. Maybe or maybe not the steep bank will be a problem. In lots of cases, foreclosed homes are trashed by residents forced to move, and auction buyers can’t always get inside to get a look before they lay down thousands. Sometimes the property has sat empty for months.
One thing is for sure. Someone walked away with a waterfront home on Bainbridge for less than half of its assessed value.
The auctions start at 10 a.m. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Buyer beware.

Job openings up 31 percent

This announcement today from the Washington Office of Employment Security ….

OLYMPIA – Washington’s recession-ravaged job market is on the road to recovery, according to the Employment Security Department’s fall 2010 job-vacancy survey released today.
Job openings were up 31 percent last fall compared to a year earlier, growing to an estimated 41,889 vacant positions.
Employment Security conducts the job-vacancy survey twice a year, in the spring and fall. Estimated openings increased by 8 percent between the spring 2010 and fall 2010 surveys.
“The increase in job openings is a sign that employers are gaining confidence, and that’s good for our economic recovery,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause.
Two Washington employers agreed that the economic tide is turning.
“We’re starting to pick back up again. We’re noticing growth among some of our customers, and they’re demanding more services from us,” said John Wright, president of Zip Truck Lines, Inc. (Moses Lake) and American Container Transport, Inc. (Ellensburg).
Jill Hansell, managing partner of Seattle-based staffing firm Hansell Tierney, said, “Since January, we’re definitely seeing an increase in companies that need people. Our clients are feeling more optimistic, and I feel we’re definitely taking a positive step. But it’s still cautious.”
Zip Truck Lines reported three vacancies last fall, and Hansell Tierney reported eight vacancies.
Openings are still fewer than half of what they were before the start of the recession. Vacancies hit an all-time high in fall 2006, with nearly 91,000 open positions. That number dropped rapidly the ensuing three years, hitting a low point of 32,037 vacancies in fall 2009.
Highlights from Employment Security’s Fall 2010 Job-Vacancy Survey
· Most of the growth in job openings was at smaller firms. Between fall 2009 and 2010, vacancies increased 6,800 at firms with nine or fewer employees. Firms with 10 or more employees added about 3,000 vacancies.
· Registered nurses, which had the most openings in the past two surveys, fell to fourth place behind retail salespeople, teacher’s assistants and cashiers.
· Nearly 14 percent of vacancies were newly created positions, compared to just 4 percent in the fall 2009 survey.
· 51 percent of open jobs required a high school diploma or had no educational requirement.
· 95 percent of open jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree also required previous work experience.
· King County had 46 percent of the open positions, but just 31 percent of the state’s unemployed.

Why everybody’s a real-estate broker now …

Yesterday’s real-estate agent is now a broker. And yesterday’s broker is now a managing broker. And the managing brokers have left the market. That came out of a conversation I had with Thor Holm, broker at John L. Scott of Port Orchard today.

All that upward movement is because there are so fewer professional sellers out there today. According to the Kitsap County Association of Realtors, there were 1,060 professional sellers at the height of the market. Only 601 are left.

Rachel Pritchett