Monday PM January 28th, 2008

Commerce Department says new home sales fell in 2007 by record amount...House set to vote Tuesday on economic stimulus package...Tilman Fertitta moving to take Landry's private...

The Commerce Department says new home sales fell by a record amount in 2007, with prices under pressure. Sales of new homes fell 26.4 percent last year. The median price of a new home rose just 0.2 percent to $246,900, the poorest showing since 1991. The report underscores the difficulty of the housing downturn, which has sent shockwaves through the broader economy and financial markets. Some analysts think a recession has begun. For December, the government says new home sales fell 4.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000.

Senate Democrats are planning to add a few things to the bipartisan $150 billion economic stimulus package. Senior Senate aides in both parties say the Senate is planning to draft its own measure to add rebates for senior citizens living off social security and an extension of unemployment benefits. Adding to the plan would be in direct defiance with White House wishes, as President Bush has called on Congress to quickly adopt the original plan. Bush has said additional spending measures could derail the deal. The House is planning to vote Tuesday on the White House-backed package that would send rebates of up to $600 to most income earners.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is urging the Senate to get behind the economic stimulus plan or risk an irate public. President Bush and House leaders are in agreement on a proposal to offer more than 100 million families tax rebate checks and give businesses $50 billion in incentives. Paulson, the president's chief negotiator in the deal, says the American public won't "have much patience for anything that would slow down the process.'' The Senate is considering adding provisions that would extend unemployment benefits, boost home heating subsidies and raise food stamp benefits. When asked if such ideas would be deal-breakers, Paulson said he did not "want to cast a shadow on this rare bipartisan moment.'' He spoke on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Tilman Fertitta is attempting to take Landry's private, according to the Houston Chronicle. The board of directors has established a committee of independent directors to review the proposal and any possible alternatives. Houston-based Landry's owns the Golden Nugget casinos, Kemah Boardwalk, the Aquarium, Inn at the Ballpark, San Luis Hotel & Resort, Saltgrass Steakhouse, Rainforest Caf?, Chart House, Cadillac Bar, Willie G's, Grotto, Vic and Anthony's Steakhouse, Pesce, La Griglia and other restaurants.

St. Luke's Episcopal Health System and its affiliate Kelsey-Seybold have purchased 40 acres near The Vintage master-planned community for a medical campus, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Vintage is a 630-acre community at State Highway 249 and Louetta.

A new survey says the price of gas has dropped nearly a dime and dipped below the $3 mark over the last two weeks. Oil industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says the average price of a gallon of regular was $2.98. According to the survey, the cheapest place to fill up is Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gallon costs $2.70 on average. The most expensive gas is in Honolulu, where prices average $3.35 a gallon.

The Federal Reserve holds a policy-setting session this week, beginning tomorrow and concluding on Wednesday. Along with an expected rate cut, the statement from the Fed will be closely-watched. The monthly employment report is scheduled for Friday. Analysts look for little growth in payrolls and a steady jobless rate. Also in the coming week, reports are due on new home sales, consumer confidence, employment costs and fourth quarter economic growth.

Tags: News


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