New Home Sales Stuck in the Mud

New Home Sales Slower than Expected

New Home Sales Slower than Expected

The Commerce Department announced disappointing new home sales for the month of July, worrying officials that an important source of jobs is still showing signs of weakness.

The decline in sales of new homes was 2.4 percent during the month from June to July, down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000. In a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, prominent economists had predicted a yearly figure of 425,000.

New home sales have consistently refused to get out of the starting gate, staying stuck in the 2013 figures which totaled 429,000 new homes sold. In contrast the numbers for already existing homes have continued to climb, with four months in a row of better sales through July.

The reason economists focus on the strength of new home sales, despite this sector only representing 10 percent of US home buying, is because building homes usually provides high-paying, middle-class jobs.

Research Reveals Four Texas Cities Among 50 Best US Cities for Work and Play

Canadian tourism strategy development and branding agency Resonance Consultancy Ltd

Four Texas cities among US 50 best destinations

Four Texas cities among US 50 best destinations

took a new approach to evaluating US cities for their desirability as destinations for business and pleasure.

Traditionally cities are judged for their potential for tourist development mostly by examining how many visitors a place has and the money that is generated there. The Resonance study took a different approach. They instead used 16 different criteria to judge a city’s value as a potential place for tourist development. Those data points included things like how many major league sports teams that were housed there; direct flights to the city; hotel rooms; and on-line reviews such as Yelp and Trip Advisor.

It is not a surprise that Los Angeles and New York came in second and first place, respectively. Four major Texas cities also made the list, but in a somewhat unexpected order: Dallas ranked third; Houston came in twelfth; San Antonio, 21st; and in 23rd place was Austin.

US Business Inventories and Sales Looking Good in June

Although not as strong an upward climb as in May, June’s inventories showed a continued surge with a 0.4 percent rise, not quite meeting May’s 0.5 percent. The figures were supplied by the US Department of Commerce which also revealed that there was a small gain in stock prices for non-automobile retailers.

The figures released last week for wholesale and manufacturing inventories point to a second-quarter growth estimate which may be slashed as much as a half of a percentage point by the time the government publishes its revisions on its predictions later this month.

Smaller inventories are a good sign for the third-quarter of GDP.

Sales are also on the rise. In June business sales went forward by 0.3 percent, matching a similar gain in May. If Junes pace were to continue it would take businesses to clear their shelves of their inventory in 1.20 months, the same as in May.

Highlights from the Ninth Annual Napa Valley Festival del Sole with Barrett Wiseman

Barrett Wiseman, Sophia Loren, Robert Redford and others

Barrett Wiseman, Sophia Loren, Robert Redford and others


IMG Artists with Barrett Wiseman just completed the Ninth Annual Napa Valley Festival del Sole. This celebration of music, dance and the arts featured Napa’s wines, culinary experiences and wellness programs.

As Barrett Wiseman, the IMG Artists’ Chairman and the Festival’s Artistic Director said,

“IMG Artists is deeply gratified by the success of this year’s Festival, from record-breaking fundraising numbers to the many successful programs featuring preeminent musicians, dancers, vintners, chefs and more. We are thankful for the tremendously positive response from Festival attendees, as well as the entire Napa Valley region, to whom we remain grateful for their continued support and warm welcome. We couldn’t have achieved this success without the efforts of our Partner and Festival Director Rick Walker and the Festival staff, IMG Artists’ Festival Producer Charles Letourneau and the IMG Artists team, and the core lineup of extraordinary artists including Joshua Bell, Pinchas Zukerman, Polina Semionova, Alondra de la Parra, James Valenti, Dmitri Sitkovetsky, Matthew Polenzani, Nadine Sierra, James Valenti, Carlo Ponti, among many others. A special thanks goes out to our distinguished guests who made the “Bella Italia!” Tribute a wonderful success including Sophia Loren, Robert Redford, Whoopi Goldberg and Francis Ford Coppola. I would also like to thank the Napa Valley Festival Association Board and its Chairman Darioush Khaledi, Gala Chair Maggie Oetgen and the many extraordinary donors, vintner partners and sponsors that work with us on the Festival.”

Dr. Aaron P. Dworkin, the Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization said, “The opportunity to partner with Festival del Sole was simply invaluable. Sphinx was thrilled to feature its top musicians, whose commitment to artistic merit complemented the Festival’s own objectives. The Sphinx Symphony, as well as the Sphinx Virtuosi, were honored to share the stage with legendary artists and be able to bring their musicianship to share with the engaged and committed Napa Valley community. We are tremendously excited about the future of this partnership.”

Barrett Wiseman and Francis Ford Coppola

Barrett Wiseman and Francis Ford Coppola









Some of the special highlights of this year’s festival included the “Bella Italia!” tribute to Academy Award-winning actress Sophia Loren at the Far Niente wine estate. The tribute program included emcee Whoopi Goldberg, actor Robert Redford, director Francis Ford Coppola and others. In addition, during the festival the Sphinx Organization presented the Napa premiere of its Sphinx Virtuosi and Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with performances by both the Virtuosi and Symphony Orchestra.

Next year, the Napa Valley Festival del Sole will celebrate its tenth anniversary from July 17-26, 2015.

One Third of Consumers with Debt Face Collection Agencies

One third of consumers with debt end up with the debt collector

One third of consumers with debt end up with the debt collector

According to a recently published study from the Urban Institute, 35 percent of Americans have had their debt and other past due bills reported to collection agencies.

Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, explained that often consumers get behind on their credit card payments or their hospital bills. Mortgages, car loans and student loans are also put aside, unpaid. Sometimes gym membership fees and cellphone bills can also go to a collection agency if they remain unpaid for too long. Once debt ends up in the hands of a collection agency credit scores and job opportunities can be negatively affected.

“Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections,” Ratcliffe said. “It can tip employers’ hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment.”

The results of the study showed that 35.1 percent of all people with credit cards have been reported to collection agencies for debt averaging $5,178, based on records from September 2013.

The vast majority of this debt is concentrated in southern and western states. Texas is overly represented to collection agencies, with 44.3 percent in Dallas, 44.4 percent in El Paso, and 51.7 percent in McAllen. Las Vegas has about half of its residents with debt in collections.

Ratcliffe blames frozen salaries for much of the debt problem in the worst hit states. In many places wages have been struggling to keep up with inflation during the past five years of economic recovery. In an unrelated survey Wells Fargo discovered that after-tax income dropped for the lowest 20 percent of earners during the same time frame.