Monthly Archives: March 2013

BLS: Unemployment Little Changed in February; California, Mississippi, Nevada Top List

  • By David M. Kinchen 

Regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in February, according to a report released Friday, March 29, 2013 by the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twenty-two states had unemployment rate decreases, 12 states had increases, and 16 states and the District of Columbia had no change, according to the report.

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, 10 states had increases, and 3 states had no change. The national jobless rate, 7.7 percent, edged down from January and was 0.6 percentage point lower than in February 2012.

 In February 2013, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 42 states and decreased in 8 states and the District of Columbia. The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in Texas (+80,600) and California (+41,200). The largest over-the-month decrease in employment occurred in Connecticut (-5,700), followed by Nevada (-5,500). Utah had the largest over-the-month percentage increase in employment (+1.4 percent), followed by Idaho (+0.8 percent) and Texas (+0.7 percent). Rhode Island (-0.6 percent) and Nevada (-0.5 percent) had the largest over-the-month percentage declines in employment. Over the year, nonfarm employment increased in 49 states and the District of Columbia and decreased in 1 state. The largest over-the-year percentage increases occurred in North Dakota (+5.0 percent) and Utah (+4.1 percent). The only over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wyoming (-0.3 percent).

Regional Unemployment (Seasonally Adjusted)

In February, the West continued to have the highest regional unemployment rate, 8.5 percent, while the South had the lowest rate, 7.3 percent. No region had a statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate change. Significant over-the-year rate changes occurred in two regions: the West (-1.0 percentage point) and South (-0.6 point). (See table 1.)

Among the nine geographic divisions, the Pacific continued to have the highest jobless rate, 9.1 percent in February. The West North Central again had the lowest rate, 5.5 percent. No division had a statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate change. Four divisions had significant rate changes from a year earlier, all of which were decreases. The largest of these declines occurred in the Pacific (-1.1 percentage points).

State Unemployment (Seasonally Adjusted)

California, Mississippi, and Nevada had the highest unemployment rates among the states in February, 9.6 percent each. North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate, 3.3 percent. In total, 22 states had jobless rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 7.7 percent, 11 states had measurably higher rates, and 17 states and the District of Columbia had rates that were not appreciably different from that of the nation. (See tables A and 3 and chart 1.)

Four states had statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate declines in February: Rhode Island (-0.4 percentage point), Vermont (-0.3 point), and California and New Jersey (-0.2 point each). Two states had significant rate increases over the month: Illinois (+0.5 percentage point) and Wisconsin (+0.2 point). The remaining 44 states and the District of Columbia had jobless rates that were not measurably different from those of a month earlier, though some had changes that were at least as large numerically as the significant changes.

Nevada had the largest jobless rate decline from February 2012 (-2.2 percentage points). Seven additional states had smaller but also statistically significant decreases over the year: Florida and Idaho (-1.3 percentage points each); California (-1.2 points); Colorado and Hawaii (-1.0 point each); Washington (-0.9 point); and Texas (-0.7 point). The remaining 42 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rates that were not appreciably different from those of a year earlier.

Nonfarm Payroll Employment (Seasonally Adjusted)

In February 2013, 21 states had statistically significant over-the-month changes in employment, 19 of which were increases. The largest statistically significant job gains occurred in Texas (+80,600) and California (+41,200). The two statistically significant employment decreases occurred in Connecticut (-5,700) and Rhode Island (-2,600). (See table B.)

Over the year, 35 states had statistically significant changes in employment, all of which were positive. The largest over-the-year job increase occurred in Texas (+359,800), followed by California (+293,800) and Florida (+128,100).

BOOK REVIEW: ‘My Planet’ : Mary Roach’s Sense of Humor Connects with Me

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

 Once upon a time, I could get my fix of Mary Roach’s humor columns at dentist or doctor appointments. Lately, the Readers Digests that featured this humorous science writer extraordinaire are rare indeed in  office waiting rooms whereTexas Monthly, Golf Digest, Good Housekeeping and Southern Living predominate.

BOOK REVIEW: 'My Planet' : Mary Roach's  Sense of Humor Connects with MeIf you want your dose of Mary Roach humor, you’re in luck, because a collection of her RD columns are  available in a brand new paperback called “My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places” (Readers Digest, 160 pages, $14.99, available from amazon.com and other sites) that you can slip in a pocket or purse for your medical visits.

She writes about everyday life in Oakland, CA, where she and her husband Ed Rachies, a graphic designer and illustrator,  live and beg to differ on just about everything. He’s a dog person, she’s a cat person.  So they don’t have either a cat or dog, although the neighbor’s cat sneaks in their alarm-wired house (a good thing in Oakland!) He’s a collector (Mary uses the hateful term pack rat, which reminds me of my collecting tendencies); she likes to throw things away.

She writes about the dubious joys of family vacations, reminding me of a fabulous movie from the 1950s starring Jimmy Stewart and the gorgeous Maureen O’Hara called “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” that I saw one insomniac night on Turner Classic Movies.

Ed, like me, collects vinyl records, even though his turntable is inoperative, Mary writes. My records are playable since I bought not one BUT TWO functional record players at the same thrift shop where I snagged the LPs. Most of my photos are made with my digital cameras  (I have a good selection of them) but I still love my mechanical  film cameras — Leicas, Nikons, Contax, Rolleis — and have way more than I’ll ever need. Ed would understand! I’m thinking of opening a camera store, or horrors, selling a few to specialist firms in Arizona and Georgia that cater to camera nuts.

Since I’ve finished reading “My Planet,”  I’ve stacked it on the rarely used Omega C760 photo enlarger that occupies too much space in our downstairs half-bath. That makes it an official John Book. Mary, don’t get offended: that’s the highest compliment I can pay any book. It shares pride of place with Hemmings Motor News, American Rifleman and other treasured johnny reading matter.

 About the author

Mary Roach, 54,  is an American author, specializing in popular science. She currently resides in Oakland, California. To date, she has published four books: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003), Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005) (published in some markets as Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife), Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008) and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (2010). Roach was raised in Etna, New Hampshire. She received abachelor’s degree in psychology from Wesleyan University in 1981. After college, Roach moved to San Francisco, California, and spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor. She worked as a columnist, and also worked in public relations for a brief time. Her writing career began while working part-time at the San Francisco Zoological Society, producing press releases on topics such as elephant wart surgery. On her days off from the SFZS, she wrote freelance articles for the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Sunday Magazine.

CoreLogic: 54,000 Completed Foreclosures in February; Foreclosures Down 19 Percent Nationally Since February 2012

  • By David M. Kinchen 
CoreLogic:  54,000 Completed Foreclosures in February; Foreclosures Down 19 Percent Nationally Since February 2012
A report released Thursday, March 28, 2013 by Irvine, CA-based CoreLogic, revealed that there were 54,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in February 2013, down from 67,000 in February 2012, a year-over-year decrease of 19 percent. On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures fell from 58,000  in January 2013 to the February level of 54,000, a decrease of 7 percent.

As a basis of comparison, before the crash of the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006. Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, there have been approximately 4.2 million completed foreclosures across the country.

Approximately 1.2 million homes were in some stage of foreclosure in the U.S., known as the foreclosure inventory, as of February 2013 compared to 1.5 million in February 2012, a decrease of 21 percent. The foreclosure inventory as of February 2013 represented 2.8 percent of all homes with a mortgage compared to 3.5 percent in February 2012. This was the 16th consecutive month with a year-over-year decline. Month over month, the foreclosure inventory was down 1.8 percent from January 2013 to February 2013.

“February’s 54,000 completed foreclosures is the lowest level nationally since September 2007, with most major metropolitan areas experiencing improvements,” said  Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Even the major Florida markets are benefiting with the foreclosure inventories falling the fastest in major metropolitan areas, although from a very high level.”

“We continue to see a declining trend in foreclosure activity, with major markets leading the way,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The drop in delinquencies and foreclosure starts will help support a resurgence in the home purchase market this year and next.”

Highlights as of February 2013:

> The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in February 2013 were: Florida (95,000),California (90,000), Michigan (73,000), Texas (57,000) and Georgia (49,000).These five states account for almost half of all completed foreclosures nationally.
> The five states with the lowest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending in February 2013 were: District of Columbia (96), Hawaii (469), North Dakota (482), Maine (542) and West Virginia (588).
> The five states with the highest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: Florida (9.9 percent), New Jersey (7.2 percent), New York (5.0 percent), Nevada (4.6 percent) and Illinois (4.5 percent).
> The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory as a percentage of all mortgaged homes were: Wyoming (0.5 percent), Alaska (0.6 percent), North Dakota (0.7 percent), Nebraska (0.8 percent) and Montana (0.9 percent).

*January data was revised. Revisions are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates newly released data to provide updated results.

Judicial Foreclosure States Foreclosure Ranking (Ranked by Completed Foreclosures):

Judicial States February 2013
Foreclosure Inventory Foreclosure Inventory Pct. Point Change from a Year Ago Completed Foreclosures (12 months ending February 2013) Number of Mortgages per Completed Foreclosure (12 month sum ending February 2013)
National 2.8%-0.7% 743,90355
Florida9.9% -2.4%95,177 30
Illinois 4.5%-1.1% 31,09958
Ohio3.0% -0.6%30,124 47
Indiana 2.9%-0.8% 17,75647
Pennsylvania2.8% -0.1%13,239 108
South Carolina 3.0%-0.8% 10,46260
Louisiana2.3% -0.3%9,026 49
Oklahoma 2.7%0.1% 8,42345
Massachusetts1.9% -0.1%5,506 154
Iowa 2.0%-0.2% 5,35165
Maryland3.5% 0.2%4,368 226
New York 5.0%0.1% 3,943473
Connecticut4.2% -0.4%3,931 120
New Jersey 7.2%0.5% 3,193377
Kansas1.5% -0.3%2,951 102
New Mexico 3.0%-0.4% 2,65993
Kentucky2.2% -0.7%2,350 184
Nebraska 0.8%-0.2% 2,14099
Delaware3.0% 0.0%1,262 120
Maine 4.4%-0.1% 542266
North Dakota0.7% -0.2%482 116
Hawaii 3.9%-0.4% 469357
Vermont2.5% 0.0%N/A N/A
South Dakota 1.0%-0.4% N/AN/A

Source: CoreLogic February 2013

Non-Judicial Foreclosure States Foreclosure Ranking (Ranked by Completed Foreclosures):

Non-Judicial States February 2013 
Foreclosure Inventory Foreclosure Inventory Pct. Point Change from a Year Ago Completed Foreclosures (12 months ending February 2013)Number of Mortgages per Completed Foreclosure (12 month sum ending February 2013)
National 2.8%-0.7% 743,90355
California 1.1% -1.4%90,147 59
Michigan 1.3%-0.7% 72,51818
Texas 1.2% -0.3%56,935 51
Georgia 1.9%-0.6% 48,72330
Arizona 1.3% -1.5%38,098 27
North Carolina 2.0%-0.5% 26,31751
Tennessee 1.3% -0.6%22,359 33
Missouri 1.1%-0.5% 18,34642
Colorado 0.9% -0.5%15,794 57
Washington 2.5%1.0% 14,43778
Minnesota 1.1% -0.7%13,680 62
Virginia 1.0%-0.5% 13,03898
Nevada 4.6% -0.6%12,543 35
Wisconsin 1.6%-0.6% 11,54666
Alabama 1.3% -0.2%6,986 78
Oregon 2.9%-0.2% 5,957101
Utah 1.4% -0.5%4,820 87
Idaho  2.0%-0.4% 4,13055
Arkansas 2.4% 0.8%3,854 75
New Hampshire 1.3%-0.4% 2,44876
Rhode Island3.1% 0.0%1,657 77
Montana 0.9%-0.5% 1,52384
Mississippi 2.1% -0.7%1,138 203
Wyoming 0.5%-0.2% 88581
Alaska 0.6% -0.2%882 94
West Virginia 1.2%-0.3% 588219
District of Columbia 2.3% -0.3%96 964

Source: CoreLogic February 2013

Foreclosure Data for Select Large Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) (Ranked by Completed Foreclosures):

CBSAFebruary 2013
Foreclosure Inventory Foreclosure Inventory Pct. Point Change from a Year Ago Completed Foreclosures (12 months ending February 2013) Number of Mortgages per Completed Foreclosures (12 month sum ending February 2013)
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA  2.0% -0.7%31,522 30
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ  1.3%-1.7% 25,72927
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL  5.3% -1.3%20,113 60
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA  1.7%-1.9% 18,61835
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX  1.2% -0.5%15,301 52
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA 1.2%-1.3% 14,89778
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL  10.4% -2.2%14,095 31
Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI  1.1%-0.8% 11,83635
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI  1.1% -0.8%11,497 52
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX  1.2%-0.3% 11,11856
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL  9.9% -2.7%10,844 32
St. Louis, MO-IL  1.3%-0.5% 10,73340
Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 1.1% -1.6%8,661 43
Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO  0.9%-0.6% 7,49763
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA  0.9% -1.3%5,817 74
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA  2.4%0.8% 5,55787
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA  0.9% -1.2%5,544 82
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV  2.0%-0.4% 4,785171
Philadelphia, PA  2.7% -0.1%4,179 130
Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA  0.9%-1.2% 3,937112
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 2.6% 0.0%3,392 112
Baltimore-Towson, MD 3.4% 0.3% 1,830241
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ  5.5% -0.1%1,006 921
Nassau-Suffolk, NY  6.6%-0.1% 718600
Edison-New Brunswick, NJ  6.0% 0.5%700 506

Source: CoreLogic February 2013

OPINION: Pressure from Pro Sports Shortens Useful Life of Sports Venues

  • Rene A. Henry 
Rene A. Henry

Rene A. Henry

How long should a stadium or arena last?  With pressure from professional sports teams and league commissioners, politicians are using 25 years as a standard maximum.  After all, it is only taxpayer money!  The Rose Bowl and Los Angeles Coliseum, two of the finest sports facilities in the country, are 80+ years old.  The stadium Athens used for its 1896 Olympic Games is still in excellent condition.  Any new facility that is built with public money should have a minimum lifetime of 50 years.  Or let the pro teams build their own.

 

Charleston, WV native and Seattle resident Rene A. Henry is an author and writer  who  spent more than 50 years of his professional career at every level of sports including recreational, college, professional, Olympic and international. Many of his widely-published commentaries are posted on his website at www.renehenry.com.

 

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Home Prices Accelerate in January 2013

  • By David M. Kinchen
  • Data through January 2013, released March 26  by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller1 Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed average home prices increased 7.3% for the 10-City Composite and 8.1% for the 20-City Composite in the 12 months ending in January 2013.

As of January 2013, average home prices across the United States are back to their autumn 2003 levels for both the 10-City and 20-City Composites. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the decline for both Composites is approximately 29-30% through January 2013. The January 2013 levels for both Composites are approximately 8-9% from their dip in early 2012.

All 20 cities posted year-over-year gains with Phoenix leading the way with a gain of 23.2%. Nineteen of the twenty cities showed acceleration in their year-over-year returns. Despite posting a positive double-digit annual return, Detroit was the only city to show a deceleration. After 28 months of negative annual returns, New York came into positive territory in January.

“The two headline composites posted their highest year-over-year increases since summer 2006,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “This marks the highest increase since the housing bubble burst.

“After more than two years of consecutive year-over-year declines, New York reversed trend and posted a positive return in January. The Southwest (Phoenix and Las Vegas) plus San Francisco posted the highest annual increases; they were also among the hardest hit by the housing bust. Atlanta and Dallas recorded their highest year-over-year gains.

“Economic data continues to support the housing recovery. Single-family home building permits and housing starts posted double-digit year-over-year increases in February 2013. Despite a slight uptick in foreclosure filings, numbers are still down 25% year-over-year. Steady employment and low borrowing rates pushed inventories down to their lowest post-recession levels.”

In January 2013, nine cities — Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco and Tampa — and both Composites posted positive monthly returns. Dallas was the only MSA where the level remained flat.

In terms of annual rates of change, all 20 cities as well as both Composites posted positive change. Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Francisco were the eight MSAs to report double-digit annual returns.

More than 26 years of history for these data series are available, and can be accessed in full by going towww.homeprice.spindices.com. Additional content on the housing market may also be found on S&P Dow Jones Indices’ housing blog: www.housingviews.com.

REALTORS: February Pending Home Sales Slip Due to Low Inventory

  • By David M. Kinchen 
REALTORS: Pending Home Sales Slip Due to Low Inventory

February pending home sales flattened with limited buyer choices, but remained at the second highest level in nearly three years, according to a report issued Wednesday, March 27 by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 0.4 percent to 104.8 in February from a downwardly revised 105.2 in January, but is 8.4 percent higher than February 2012 when it was 96.6. Contract activity has been above year-ago levels for the past 22 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

Before January, the last time the index showed a higher reading was in April 2010 when it was 110.9, shortly before the deadline for the home buyer tax credit.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said limited inventory is holding back the market in many areas. “Only new home construction can genuinely help relieve the inventory shortage, and housing starts need to rise at least 50 percent from current levels,” he said. “Most local home builders are small businesses and simply don’t have access to capital on Wall Street. Clearer regulatory rules, applied to construction loans for smaller community banks and credit unions, could bring many small-sized builders back into the market.”

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.5 percent to 82.8 in February but is 6.8 percent above February 2012. In the Midwest the index rose 0.4 percent to 103.6 in February and is 13.2 percent higher than a year ago. Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.3 percent to an index of 118.8 in February but are 12.1 percent above February 2012. In the West the index increased 0.1 percent in February to 101.4 but is 0.8 percent below a year ago.

Yun projects existing-home sales to rise about 7 percent in 2013 to approximately 5 million sales, which is near the current level of activity. “The volume of home sales appears to be leveling off with the constrained inventory conditions, and the leveling of the index means little change is likely in the pace of sales over the next couple months,” he said.

The national median existing-home price is forecast to rise nearly 7 percent this year, while mortgage interest rates should remain historically low, but trend up slowly and reach 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

APPRECIATION: Sunday Marks 70th Anniversary of Game-Changing Musical ‘Oklahoma!’

  • By David M. Kinchen 
APPRECIATION: Sunday Marks 70th Anniversary of Game-Changing Musical 'Oklahoma!'
 My wife kids me mercilessly about my love of musicals. I’ve raved to her about the new “Les Miserables” and promised to get her the DVD — whether she wants it or not! The other night I tuned in Turner Classic Movies to watch  a mostly forgotten 1930 musical called “Spring Is Here” to catch the lead duet of Lawrence Gray and Bernice Claire singing the Rodgers and Hart classic “With a Song in My Heart,” reminding Liz that it’s one of the songs sung by Ella Fitzgerald in her two disc collection of songs from the Rodgers and Hart songbook — which I treasure. As if she cares! (link to YouTube of the Gray-Claire duet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmIwPIPnkM8)

So when I note that Sunday, March 31, 2013 is the 70th anniversary of the Broadway opening of “Oklahoma!” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II — the first collaboration between the two men — I expect you music lovers out there to care, even if Liz doesn’t.

Coincidentally, there’s a connection between the 2012 “Les Miserables” and “Oklahoma!”: Hugh Jackman, who plays Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”, played Curly McLain in the 1998 West End (English) revival of “Oklahoma!” This production was filmed and was  issued on DVD, as well as being broadcast on U.S. Public Television in November 2003. I’m going to try to get it, since the 1998 production features the original orchestrations by Rodney Russell Bennett.

Here’s more background by native Oklahoman Carrie Magness Radna  on “Oklahoma!” which didn’t get its title until it opened on Broadway; it was called “Away We Go” in its Boston tryout:   http://www.nypl.org/blog/2013/03/25/choral-notes-happy-70th-anniversary-oklahoma

“Away We Go” — oops, “Oklahoma!” was produced by the Theatre Guild and according to Wikipedia “was based on  Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs” that had a short run in a Theatre Guild production. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.

“The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,243 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions.

“This musical, building on the innovations of the earlier “Show Boat” [by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II], epitomized the development of the ‘book musical’, a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that are able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter. In addition, ‘Oklahoma!’ features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story. A fifteen-minute “dream ballet” reflects Laurey’s struggle to choose between two men. A special Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Oklahoma! in the category of “Special Awards And Citations – Letters” in 1944.”

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943 at the St. James Theatre in New York City. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and choreographed by Agnes de Mille. It starred Alfred Drake (Curly), Joan Roberts (Laurey), Celeste Holm (Ado Annie), Howard Da Silva (Jud Fry), Betty Garde (Aunt Eller), Lee Dixon (Will Parker), Joseph Bulloff (Ali Hakim), Jane Lawrence (Gertie) and Barry Kelley (Ike). Marc Platt danced the role of “Dream Curly”, Katharine Sergava danced the part of “Dream Laurey” and the small dancing part of Aggie was played by Bambi Linn. George Church danced the part of “Dream Jud” but was replaced by Vladimir Kostenko only two months after the premiere.

The production ran for 2,243 performances, finally closing on May 29, 1948.  “The demand for tickets was unprecedented as the show became more popular in the months that followed” the opening. Oklahoma! ran for over five years, a Broadway record that “would not be bested until “My Fair Lady” (1956).” A year and a half after the Broadway opening, the “first of several” national tours began in New Haven, Connecticut.

“Productions of ‘Oklahoma!’ would remain on the road in the United States and Canada” through 1954.     A 1953 article in The New York Times reported that the show “not only holds the record for the longest run of a musical on Broadway but is believed to be the only musical to have enjoyed a consecutive run of ten years. It ran on Broadway for five years and two months, grossing $7,000,000.
The tour of the national company, which started late in 1943, has grossed $15,000,000.” And that was before a mediocre seat for a Broadway production could easily top $100 (I paid $80 for a high up in the seats of the Majestic Theater to see “The Phantom of the Opera” in 2007) .  The Tony Awards and other awards now given for achievement in musical theatre were not in existence in 1943, and therefore the original production of Oklahoma! received no theatrical awards.Songs from “Oklahoma!” include the title piece, now the state song of Oklahoma; “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'”; “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “All Er Nuthin'”; “The Farmer and the Cowman”; “Many a New Day”; “I Cain’t Say No”;  “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”, etc. etc.

REALTORS: Pending Home Sales Slip Due to Low Inventory

  • By David M. Kinchen 
REALTORS: Pending Home Sales Slip Due to Low Inventory

 

 

February pending home sales flattened with limited buyer choices, but remained at the second highest level in nearly three years, according to a report issued Wednesday, March 27, 2013  by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 0.4 percent to 104.8 in February from a downwardly revised 105.2 in January, but is 8.4 percent higher than February 2012 when it was 96.6. Contract activity has been above year-ago levels for the past 22 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

Before January, the last time the index showed a higher reading was in April 2010 when it was 110.9, shortly before the deadline for the home buyer tax credit.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said limited inventory is holding back the market in many areas. “Only new home construction can genuinely help relieve the inventory shortage, and housing starts need to rise at least 50 percent from current levels,” he said. “Most local home builders are small businesses and simply don’t have access to capital on Wall Street. Clearer regulatory rules, applied to construction loans for smaller community banks and credit unions, could bring many small-sized builders back into the market.”

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.5 percent to 82.8 in February but is 6.8 percent above February 2012. In the Midwest the index rose 0.4 percent to 103.6 in February and is 13.2 percent higher than a year ago. Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.3 percent to an index of 118.8 in February but are 12.1 percent above February 2012. In the West the index increased 0.1 percent in February to 101.4 but is 0.8 percent below a year ago.

Yun projects existing-home sales to rise about 7 percent in 2013 to approximately 5 million sales, which is near the current level of activity. “The volume of home sales appears to be leveling off with the constrained inventory conditions, and the leveling of the index means little change is likely in the pace of sales over the next couple months,” he said.

The national median existing-home price is forecast to rise nearly 7 percent this year, while mortgage interest rates should remain historically low, but trend up slowly and reach 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Home Prices Accelerate in January 2013

  • By David M. Kinchen 
Data through January 2013, released March 26  by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller  Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed average home prices increased 7.3% for the 10-City Composite and 8.1% for the 20-City Composite in the 12 months ending in January 2013.
 

As of January 2013, average home prices across the United States are back to their autumn 2003 levels for both the 10-City and 20-City Composites. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the decline for both Composites is approximately 29-30% through January 2013. The January 2013 levels for both Composites are approximately 8-9% from their dip in early 2012.

All 20 cities posted year-over-year gains with Phoenix leading the way with a gain of 23.2%. Nineteen of the twenty cities showed acceleration in their year-over-year returns. Despite posting a positive double-digit annual return, Detroit was the only city to show a deceleration. After 28 months of negative annual returns, New York came into positive territory in January.

“The two headline composites posted their highest year-over-year increases since summer 2006,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “This marks the highest increase since the housing bubble burst.

“After more than two years of consecutive year-over-year declines, New York reversed trend and posted a positive return in January. The Southwest (Phoenix and Las Vegas) plus San Francisco posted the highest annual increases; they were also among the hardest hit by the housing bust. Atlanta and Dallas recorded their highest year-over-year gains.

“Economic data continues to support the housing recovery. Single-family home building permits and housing starts posted double-digit year-over-year increases in February 2013. Despite a slight uptick in foreclosure filings, numbers are still down 25% year-over-year. Steady employment and low borrowing rates pushed inventories down to their lowest post-recession levels.”

In January 2013, nine cities — Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco and Tampa — and both Composites posted positive monthly returns. Dallas was the only MSA where the level remained flat.

In terms of annual rates of change, all 20 cities as well as both Composites posted positive change. Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Francisco were the eight MSAs to report double-digit annual returns.

More than 26 years of history for these data series are available, and can be accessed in full by going towww.homeprice.spindices.com. Additional content on the housing market may also be found on S&P Dow Jones Indices’ housing blog: www.housingviews.com.

A Dad’s Point-of-View: Losing Friends Over Politics

  • By Bruce Sallan 
Bruce Sallan

Bruce Sallan

 In last year’s election cycle, it seemed that the discourse was more raw, rough, and angry than ever before. It seemed that posturing was taking place among the candidates, of course, but also mainstream media was clearly favoring one candidate/party over another. How does this impact our relationships? Does it impact them? And, since the election, has it changed? I think not.

 

One of my favorite movies of all-time is a 1970’s French film by the renowned director, Claude LeLouche. This movie, “And Now My Love,” has a conceit in its concept that only the French would do and, in this case, pull off magnificently. It is the story of love at first sight. However, the destined lovers do not meet until the very end of the movie as they are figuratively passing ships in the night. We do learn that they share one thing in common – they both take three lumps of sugar in their coffee.

That is ultimately the McGuffin of the movie to use a movie term that I believe began with Alfred Hitchcock films and doesn’t really apply. Let’s just say it’s the device that threads throughout this adorable, lyrical, and amazing cinematic achievement. For me, it’s also been a lifelong lesson in relationships that has now encompassed political views – for me.

 

Should taking three lumps of sugar be the basis of a relationship? Maybe not, but it was an allegory for this particular couple’s destiny. When I got divorced and began dating again, I realized that my three lumps of sugar were not what I had always thought they would be. Religion turned out not to be that important a difference since my (second) wife turned out to be Christian, while I’m Jewish. But, the fact that we both shared the basic tenets that both our religions share, turned out to be more relevant than if I’d met a secular Jew. She believed in the Old Testament, just as I do. She believes in the values it espouses and our only difference, essentially, was the role Jesus played in the world.

 

Similarly, we shared the same politics and I realized that I could not be with a woman who thought the opposite of me. The consequences of that thinking, in my opinion, would be catastrophic for our country, our world, and more importantly to me, for the future for my boys. Of course I don’t mean on every single policy, but an overall belief system. So, how could I share a life with someone who believed otherwise?

 

As my view of the world and my values solidified, I began looking at my friend’s values and views. I found that with many on “the other side,” we could just not have a respectful dialogue. In some cases, we agreed to just take politics off the table and continue to stay friends and talk about the more micro issues of our lives: work, family, fun.

 

In other cases, the extreme views and values of some friends just made it hard to continue the friendship. I found that these friendships more or less drifted apart in a natural way without any rancor though for me, with the realization that our time had passed (as friends).

 

Of course, we should not choose our friends solely by their ideological views. Or should we? I would suggest that friends we had from years past should be given more slack in this regard and just as with the example described earlier, maybe some topics are just not discussed.

 

However, with new friends and especially with a life-long partner, I believe sharing similar values and (political) views just is easier. Of course it does none of us any good to just have friends and/or family that simply agree with everything we say or do. But, on the other hand, some views/values are just beyond casual discussion and inevitably lead to passions getting inflamed.

 

I’m a pretty out-there guy with out-there views of life and the world. I could just keep my mouth shut and not let some of these macro issues of the world intrude in my personal life. But, I’m just not that sort. Passivity about anything isn’t in my blood.

 

I have no doubt that this column will stir much debate and disagreement with this point-of-view. You are welcome to express those contrary views to me via email or in the comments section of my website. When I wrote a pretty over-the-top rant about the Occupy Wall Street movement, the response was significant.

 

Happily, the vast majority of those that disagreed with me did so with thought, respect, and intelligence. They were still wrong, of course, but at least the discourse was civil. Those that simply called me names usually did so anonymously and I did not delete a single one of those hateful comments because they really did speak for themselves and require no response.

 

In my personal life, I’d rather not have the rancor that we are seeing in the public sphere. I am glad that my friendships have evolved so that the majority of those close to me do think along similar lines, though with varying degrees of harmony.

 

Frankly, most of the friendships that have drifted have done so not due to politically different views, but just the natural evolution of our changing lives and/or a silly, small incident that grew to more than it ever deserved and unfortunately, derailed the friendship. I’m not proud of those friendships that ended over trivia, but I’m far from a perfect human being.

 

What do you think about this issue? Have your friendships endured significantly different political positions. Have your views of the world changed while your friend’s views haven’t? Please share your thoughts.

 

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Bruce Sallan’s second book is an e-book only –  HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/the-empty-nest-road-trip-blues/” “The Empty-Nest Road Trip Blues: An Interactive Journal from A Dad’s Point-of-View” – and costs a whopping $2.79 for PDF and $2.99 on  HYPERLINK “http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Nest-Blues-Point—View-ebook/dp/B00AB0XRCW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1353605281&sr=1-1” Amazon/Kindle. It’s a travelogue, an emotional father-son story, and it contains 100 photos and 7 original videos. Bruce is also the author of HYPERLINK “http://brucesallan.com/index.php/store”“A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation” and radio host of HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/index.php/radio”“The Bruce Sallan Show – A Dad’s Point-of-View.” He gave up a long-term showbiz career to become a stay-at-home-dad. He has dedicated his new career to becoming THE Dad advocate. He carries out his mission with not only his book and radio show, but also his column HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/index.php/mycolumn”“A Dad’s Point-of-View”, syndicated in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide, his “I’m NOT That Dad” vlogs, the “Because I Said So” comic strip, and his dedication to his community on HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/aDadsPointOfView”Facebook and HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/BruceSallan”Twitter. Join Bruce and his extensive community each Thursday for  HYPERLINK “http://www.brucesallan.com/index.php/other/353-all-about-dadchat” #DadChat, from 6-7pm PST, the Tweet Chat that Bruce hosts.