March 19, 2013 in Business

Homebuilder confidence slips but long-term outlook bright

From Wire Reports
 

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders fell this month because of concerns that increased demand for new homes is exceeding supplies of ready-to-build land, building materials and workers.

In the short term, those constraints could slow sales. But builders’ outlook for sales over the next six months has reached its strongest point in more than six years.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday fell to 44 from 46 in February. It was the second decline since January, which was preceded by eight straight monthly gains. A measure of current sales conditions declined from February’s reading.

Boeing workers OK contract

SEATTLE – In a re-vote tallied Monday night, Boeing technical workers overwhelmingly approved a new four-year contract that replaces pensions with a 401(k) retirement plan for new hires.

The technical workers had voted Feb. 19 to reject the same offer. The workers’ union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, had cautioned that a second rejection would “almost certainly” lead to a lengthy strike since Boeing had refused to improve its offer.

The latest vote was 4,244 to accept and 654 to reject, union spokesman Bill Dugovich said.

The union made no recommendation this time, after earlier urging both the 7,200 technical workers and the 15,500 Boeing engineers it represents to reject the pact. Engineers and technical workers bargain at the same time, but their contracts are separate and independent agreements.

The engineers approved their contract offer in the first vote. It contained the same pension provision for new hires.

Fire risk leads to Dodge recall

DETROIT – Chrysler is telling owners of about 2,500 Dodge Challenger muscle cars with V-6 engines not to drive them because a short in a wiring circuit can set them on fire.

Owners also are being told not to park the cars in a garage or near a structure until the problem can be fixed.

The cars are from the 2013 model year and have V-6 engines. They were made during the eight weeks that ended Jan. 24.

Chrysler wouldn’t identify exactly where the short occurs, but said it’s in a place that most owners would never see. Six fires were reported that damaged cars, but no one was hurt, the company said in a statement. A seventh incident is still being investigated.

Pension fund ex-CEO charged

SAN FRANCISCO – Federal officials on Monday charged the former head of the nation’s largest pension fund and one of his business associates with falsifying documents and other charges in a long-running influence peddling and bribery investigation.

A grand jury in San Francisco charged Federico Buenrostro Jr. and Alfred Villalobos, and they were booked and released on bond Monday after briefly appearing in court.

Buenrostro, 64, served as CEO of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System from late 2002 until June 2008. Villalobos, 69, served on the CalPERS board and is a former vice mayor of Los Angeles.

The indictment alleges the two conspired to fabricate documents that certified to federal regulators that Villalobos’ firm had obtained required “investor disclosure letters” from CalPERS to serve as a “transfer agent.” The indictment charges that the falsified documents allowed Villalobos to reap $14 million in fees for serving as a middleman between CalPERS and a prominent investment firm handling $3 billion in CalPERS’ money.

The two have already been sued by state and federal officials.

Suntech announces default

BEIJING – Suntech, one of the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturers, said Monday it has defaulted on a $541 million bond payment in the latest sign of the financial squeeze on the struggling global solar industry.

Suntech Power Holdings Ltd.’s announcement was a severe setback for a company lauded by China’s communist government as a leader of efforts to make the country a center of the renewable energy industry. Its founder, Shi Zhengrong, became one of the industry’s most prominent entrepreneurs and a billionaire, only to see most of his fortune evaporate as the company’s share price plummeted.

The company is “exploring strategic alternatives with lenders and potential investors,” David King, who replaced Shi as CEO last year, said in a statement.


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