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Stocks fall on Philly Fed manufacturing report

The daily Dow

Forget Wednesday's gains. The three major stock indexes fell in light of a negative manufacturing report for September from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. That report raised questions about whether the economy might be slowing into a recession. For the day, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 79.96 points to 11,533.23, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 15.74 points to 2,237.75 and the S&P 500 fell 8.37 points to close at 1,318.03.

Gainers among South Florida stocks Thursday included FPL Group, picking up 12 cents to close at $44.75, Carnival Corp., up $1.17 to $44.75 and Royal Caribbean Cruises, up $1.33 to $38.48. Among the losers was Ryder System, down $1.37 to close at $51.07.


Tourism output increases in 2nd quarter

Tourism output nationally grew at an annualized rate of 1.4 percent during the second quarter of 2006, substantially less than the 5.0 percent posted in the first quarter of the year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Commerce Department. By comparison, the overall economy grew by 2.9 percent during the same quarter.

The second quarter output translates into annual visitor spending of $1.2 trillion.

Tourism employment during the first quarter grew by 3.1 percent in the first quarter of the year, while the economy as a whole produced 1.7 percent more jobs, the Commerce Department reported. Overall, the number of people employed in tourism directly or indirectly totaled 8.3 million.

Falling oil prices, rising earnings lift markets

The daily Dow

Oil prices briefly fell below $60 a barrel and companies such as Oracle reported earnings above expectations, spurring a broad Wall Street rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 72.28 points to close at 11,613.19, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 30.52 points to finish the day at 2,252.89. The S&P 500 gained 6.87 points to 1,325.18. Earlier in the day the Federal Reserve announced it was holding the line on short-term interest rates, a move that the market had anticipated.

Federal Reserve holds line on interest rates

Citing moderating growth, particularly the cooling of the housing market, the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday voted to stand pat on short-term interest rates. The federal funds rate will remain for the moment at 5.25 percent, but the committee in a statement warned that it might bump up rates in coming months, depending on inflation risks. For consumers, Wednesday's decision means that credit cards and loans with interest rates pegged to the fed funds rate will remain the same.

Florida Cabinet orders Citizens to hold meetings

citizens logoTALLAHASSEE — The Florida Cabinet Tuesday rejected Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s plan of operation and order the state-sponsored carrier to hold at least three public hearings to get customer input about how it should work.

Citizens, the state’s home insurer of last resort and also the largest insurer in Florida, has come under fire the last two years for the high rates it charges and poor customer service. Citizens by law must charge rates higher than private companies.

The cabinet also limited Citizens’ ability to hire outside lawyers to sue the state in order to charge higher rates.

Citizens, which has 1.2 million customers, by far the most of any insurer in Florida, last week approved a 2.07 percent assessment to help cover the $1.7 billion surplus it incurred while paying claims from the 2005 hurricane season. Everyone in the state who has an insurance policy will be required to pay the assessment regardless of whom his or her insurer might be. Citizens is expected to pass a second assessment when its board meets in October.

Cabinet members include Gov. Jeb Bush, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, Attorney General Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson. Crist is the Republican nominee for governor.

Thai coup, earnings warnings spook investors

The daily Dow

A coup in Thailand, earnings warnings from Yahoo! and others, and a sharp decline in housing starts put a chill on Wall Street Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 14.09 points to 11,540.91. The Nasdaq composite index fell 13.08 points to 2,222.37, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,318.31, down 2.87.

Before the start of trading, the Commerce Department reported that housing starts in August were down 6 percent on an annualized basis. The Labor Department did produce one bit of good news, reporting a 0.4 percent decline in the core rate of the producer price index, further trimming the odds that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates on Wednesday. Oil prices also dropped to below $62 a barrel.


Investors cautious ahead of Fed meeting

The daily Dow

The three major indexes ended trading narrowly mixed Monday in the face of rising oil prices and uncertainty over which direction the Fed might take with interest rates this week. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.77 points to close at 11,555. The Nasdaq composite index continued its winning streak, barely, closing 0.16 points higher at 2,235.75, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,3231.18, upu 1.37 points.

Cool inflation has investors in buying mood

The daily Dow

A lower-than-expected increase in the consumer price index for August helped stocks finish higher Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 33.38 points to close at 11,560.77. The Nasdaq composite index finished higher for the sixth straight day, up6.86 points to close at 2,235.59, while the S&P 500 finished at 1,319.87, up 3.59. All three major indexes finished the week higher. Earlier in the day, the Labor Department reported that the consumer price index rose by 0.2 percent in August; experts had expected the CPI to rise by 0.3 percent.

Florida's unemployment remains at historic lows

Florida’s unemployment rate for August remained at 3.3 percent, same as July, but down from the 3.6 percent posted a year ago, according to the state’s Agency for Workforce Innovation.

The state rate continued to be substantially lower than the national rate of 4.7 percent reported by the Labor Department two weeks ago. Florida also continued to create jobs at a faster rate than the nation as a whole.

Broward posted the lowest rate among the three South Florida counties at 3.2 percent, down from 3.3 percent in July and 3.6 percent in August 2005. County rates are not seasonally adjusted, making year-over-year comparisons more valid than month-to-month.

In Miami-Dade, the August rate rose to 4.3 percent from July’s 3.9 percent but down from 4.4 percent posted a year ago.

In Palm Beach County, the rate rose to 3.9 percent in August from 3.8 percent in July, but down from 4.2 percent a year ago.

Professional and business services, trades, transportation and utilities produced the most new jobs statewide.

Hendry County had the state’s highest unemployment, at 9.0 percent; Walton had the lowest at 2.2 percent.

Former broker hit with penalties in stock scam

WEST PALM BEACH — A former Coral Springs stockbroker has been ordered to pay nearly $500,000 to settle a securities fraud suit brought more than four years ago by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Federal court Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley has ordered Brad M. Nirenberg to pay to the court $191,807.78 in illegal profit he earned from a “pump-and-dump” scheme involving the stock of Lifekeepers International, a West Palm Beach firm that once claimed to have a national network of medical-testing outlets.

In other news, Hurley ruled against the former CEO of Link Express for masterminding a $15.5 million stock scam. READ MORE...

Stocks mostly down Thursday ending 4-day rally

The daily Dow

The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 both posted modest losses Thursday, highlighting the mixed views of the economy. The Nasdaq composite index gained slightly, however. For the day, the Dow dropped 15.93 points to 11,527.39, while the S&P 500 fell 1.87 points to 1,316.20. The Nasdaq rose 1.06 points to 2,228.73.

Citizens board approves 2.07 percent surcharge

FORT LAUDERDALE — The cost of homeowners insurance will be rising for everyone in Florida. Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort, approved Thursday a 2.07 percent assessment to make up part of the $1.7 billion deficit Citizens incurred last year.

Everyone with a homeowner’s policy in Florida will be hit with the assessment, which amounts to $41.40 on a $2,000 annual premium. The state Office of Insurance Regulation still must review the assessment but it has little discretion but to give its approval. The assessment would generate $163 million for Citizens.

Citizens likely will approve a second assessment next month to recover about $786 million. That assessment will be spread out over 10 years to minimize its effect on homeowners.

The Florida Legislature earlier this year appropriated $715 million to reduce Citizens’ deficit, which otherwise homeowners would have had to pick up.

Altogether, Citizens, Florida’s largest insurance company, with 1.2 million policies, paid more than $5 billion in hurricane claims in 2005.

Last year, Citizens hit Florida policyholders with a 6.8 percent assessment.

Office Depot lays off 250 at Boca center

Delray Beach-based Office Depot eliminated about 250 jobs at its Boca Raton call center but says it is encouraging employees to find other work with the company. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Commercial real estate index shows strength, maintains upward trend In second quarter

WASHINGTON  — The National Association of Realtors says the commercial real estate market should continue to improve into 2007 but at a slower rate.

NAR’s Commercial Leading Indicator for Brokerage Activity was at 119.4 in the second quarter, up 0.4 percent from a reading of 118.9 in the first quarter. The index is 2.5 percent above the second quarter of 2005 when it stood at 116.5. The second quarter index was the fifth straight quarter of growth.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said the improvement is long-term. “Our commercial leading indicator has risen in 11 out of the last 12 quarters, meaning the recovery in commercial real estate will be sustained well into 2007,” Lereah said.

“However, we are seeing a deceleration in the rate of growth — apparently in response to higher oil prices and interest rates — so the expansion in net absorption and commercial construction should continue, but at a slower pace.”

Stocks continue week's upward swing

The daily Dow

The Dow Jones industrial average closed Wednesday at 11,543.32, up 45.23. The Nasdaq composite index rose 11.85 points to close at 2,227.67, while the S&P 500 rose 4.96 points to close at 1,318.07. Among the day's losers was Hewlett-Packard, which dropped 2 percent of its value on news that California Attorney General Bill Lockyer likely will seek indictments in the spying scandal involving former H-P Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and illegal methods used to gain phone records of board members and reporters covering the company.

Housing prices expected to continue to fall

WASHINGTON — Housing prices are expected to continue to have a limited fall throughout 2006, according to testimony submitted by the National Association of Realtors at Wednesday's Senate Banking Committee hearing. NAR noted that the sellers' market is transitioning to a buyers' market, which can be healthy for some local economies.

"For the past five years, the housing market has been a steadfast leader in the U.S. economy," said NAR President Thomas M. Stevens, speaking before the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation and the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy. "After five years of outstanding growth, the housing market is undergoing a period of adjustment and becoming more and more of a balanced market between buyers and sellers," said Stevens.

Stevens said that even with the falling demand and increased supply of houses for sale, home prices still appreciated slightly. He also said the nation has multiple housing markets, each reacting differently.

One-third of the country by population is still seeing rising home prices, including Alaska, New Mexico, Vermont and many states in the South, excluding Florida. States that experienced the greatest increases in home prices in recent years are experiencing significantly lower sales, such as Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.

"Contrary to many reports, there is not a 'national housing bubble,'" said Stevens. "We were seeing home prices and mortgage debt servicing cost-to-income ratios increase to unhealthy levels in some housing markets, which precipitate an adjustment."

Also contributing to the cooling housing market is an increase in mortgage rates of nearly one point, speculative investors pulling back and first-time buyers being priced out of the market.

FPL unveils plans to build coal-fired plant

fpl logoJUNO BEACH — Florida Power & Light Co. Tuesday announced plans to build an advanced-technology coal-fired power plant in Glades County.

"This innovative coal plant will utilize abundant coal reserves, increase system reliability and help stabilize power prices in the future," said Armando Olivera, president of FPL. "It will be one of the cleanest coal plants in the country, providing power for more than 650,000 homes."

The proposed FPL Glades Power Park will be built at a 5,000-acre site near Moore Haven.

About 18 percent of the power FPL generates comes from coal-fired plants.

The company expects to announce by the end of the year plans to build an additional nuclear power plant in Florida. It also is pursuing the idea of building wind turbines in the state.

The Glades plant will include two 980-megawatt generating units, the first to be completed in 2012, the second in 2013.

The plants are expected to take five years to build, once all permitting and planning is completed. Total cost of the project is expected to range between $2 billion and $3 billion. Once completed, the plant will employ 150 workers.

Stocks take a sharply upward swing

The daily Dow

Oil prices continued to drop Tuesday, helping lift stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 101.25 points to close the day's trading at 11,498.09. The Nasdaq composite index rose 42.57 poionts to close at 2,215.82, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,313.11, up 13.57 points.

Nokia moves Latin offices to Miami-Dade County

MIAMI — The Beacon Council announced Tuesday that cell phone maker Nokia is moving its Latin America Division's headquarters from Irving, Texas to Miami-Dade County.

Nokia's Latin America Division handles the marketing, sales, sourcing, manufacturing and logistics for mobile devices in the Latin American and Caribbean markets.

Nokia expects the move bring nearly 100 new jobs to Miami-Dade through a combination of new hires and personnel transferred from other Nokia locations in the United States and abroad. Nokia's new offices will occupy about 25,500 square feet in an enterprise zone.

The Beacon Council assisted Nokia with application and approval of the State of Florida's Qualified Target Industry tax incentive program.

Dreyfoos steps down as head of Kravis board

Alexander Dreyfoos has resign as chairman ofthe Kravis Center board after 15 at the helm. He will remain as a board member, however. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Stocks finish moderately up as commodities fall

The daily Dow

Falling commodities prices, including oil, helped push stocks up slightly Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 11,398.84, up 4.73 points. The Nasdaq composite index closed at 2,173.25, up 7.46, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,299.54, up 0.62 points.

Both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq halted trading briefly to commemorate 9/11.

Ex-Tyco International exec charged in tax case

Raymond Scott Stevenson of Delray Beach, a former Tyco vice president, pleaded not guilty to one count of preparing a false corporate income tax return in 1999. The return allegedly under-reported Tyco's income by $170 million, according to a one-count information filed Monday in federal district court in Fort Pierce.

At the time, Stevenson was Tyco's top tax advisor under then-CEO Dennis Kozlowski and CFO Mark Swartz. Both Kozlowski and Swartz, Boca Raton residents, have been sentenced to prison terms as long as 25 years for stealing from the company and committing fraud.

Key meetings, reports due this week

The Commerce Department will update the trade deficit Tuesday with the release of its international trade report.

The National Association of Realtors releases its commercial market forecast, also on Tuesday.

The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. board meets in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.

Florida releases its employment/unemployment data for August on Friday.

The Labor Department releases the consumer price index, real earnings reports for August also on Friday.

Lennar Corp. lowers quarterly earnings estimate

lennar logoMIAMI — Homebuilder Lennar Corp. said it is lowering its estimated earnings per share for the third quarter ended August 31 to a range between $1.25 and $1.35. Analysts had projected earnings to be $1.81 a share.

CEO Stuart Miller said the U.S. housing market continues to deteriorate, forcing the company to offer buyers increased incentives in order to maintain sales. That, plus other factors, caused the company to lower its earnings estimate. Lennar shares fell 54 cents to close Friday at $42.71.

Lennar will release its earnings for the quarter and hold a conference call on Sept. 26, which will be broadcast on the Internet via Lennar's web site.

WCI increases stock buy-back program

BONITA SPRINGS — Homebuilder WCI Communities Inc. Friday announced that its board has authorized an increase of its share by-back program by 3 million shares. That brings the total authorized to 5 million shares. The board originally authorized the company to buy back 2 million of its shares last October.


Oil prices fall, stock markets rally

The daily Dow

Falling crude oil prices sent the stock markets upward Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 60.57 points to close at 11,392.11, making up for most of Thursday's losses. The Nasdaq composite index rose 10.50 points to close at 2,165.79, while the S&P 500 rose 4.90 points to close at 1,298.92.

For the record, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate fell $1.07 Friday to close at $66.25 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Despite Friday's rally, the indexes still closed down for the week.


Stocks fall on interest rate concerns

The daily Dow

Investor fears that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates sent the major indexes southward Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.76 point to close at 11,331.44. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12.55 points to close at 2,155.29, while the S&P 500 fell 6.24 points to close at 1,294.02.

Jobless claims fall to seven-week low

The Labor Department reported that unemployment claims last week totaled 310,000, a drop of 9,000 from the previous week. The total was the lowest number of claims in seven weeks and signaled that the jobs market remains strong. Last week the Labor Department also reported that the August unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, essentially flat from July.

Norwegian Cruise Line places $2.8 billion order

norwegian cruise line logoMIAMI — NCL Corp. announced Thursday that it has sign a contract with Aker Yards S.A. of France to build up to three new cruise ships, totaling 12,600 berths for delivery between 2009 and 2011. The contract price, which includes building two ships and an option to build a third is worth about $2.8 billion.  The order is the largest in the company’s 40to -year history.

The ships will be built for the company's Norwegian Cruise Line brand  and each will be about 150,000 gross tons and have 4,200 passenger berths. One ship is to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2009 and one in the second quarter of 2010. The third ship, if built, would be delivered in 2011.

Details of the ships’ design will be released closer to delivery date. The new ship design will offer 60 percent more passenger space than the largest ships built so far by NCL.

The new order is conditional on financing, completion of the design specification, and Star Cruises shareholder approval.
NCL has a fleet of 15 ships in service and under construction. The corporation oversees the operations of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America and Orient Lines.

The company christened its newest ship, Pride of Hawai`i in May, the largest and most expensive U.S. flagged passenger ship ever built. It is currently building two ships, Norwegian Pearl scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2006 and Norwegian Gem scheduled for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Stocks fall on renewed inflation fears

The daily dow

A Labor Department report showing wages rose more than expected in the second quarter stoked fears that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates sent stocks lower Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 63.08 points to close at 11,406. The Nasdaq composite index fell 37.86 points to close at 2,167.85, while the S&P 500 fell 12.99 points to close at 1,300.26. The Nasdaq showing was its worst since July.

Intel to slash payroll by 10,500 jobs

Chip maker Intel Corp. Tuesday announced plans to cut its work force by 10,500 jobs mostly in the marketing and information technology departments. The moves, which will save the company about $2 billion, are to be completed by mid-2007, and include layoffs and divestitures already announced.

Stocks finish higher in post Labor Day trading

The Dow for the day


The Dow closed at 11,469.28, up 5.13 points, while the Nasdaq composite index closed at 2,205, up 12.54 points. The S&P 500 inched upward 2.24 points, to close at 1,313.25.

Ford out as Ford CEO, replaced by Boeing exec

Bill Ford is stepping down at troubled Ford Motors, to be replaced by Alan Mulally, 61, who has been the head of Boeing Commericial Airplanes. Bill Ford will remain as company chairman.

Home prices hit slowdown in second quarter

A federal report released Tuesday showed home prices rose 1.17 percent during the second quarter, compared with an increase of 3.65 percent a year earlier. The year-over-year decline adds to the argument that the housing boom is over.

Massive oil field found in Gulf of Mexico

Chevron and two other oil companies said Tuesday that an oil field that could contain as much as 6 billion barrels of oil has been found 270 miles southwest of New Orleans. The news helped push oil prices below $69 a barrel.

Viacom fires CEO as stock price falls

Tom Cruise isn't the only one feeling Sumner Redstone's wrath these days. The chairman of entertainment giant Viacom fired CEO Tom Feston Tuesday because of the company's tumbling stock price.

Median income falling in Florida, most states

Despite consistently having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, median income in Florida dropped by 6.7 percent over the last six years, according to the Detroit Free Press. In fact, only four states and the District of Columbia made gains over that time. Michigan performed the worst, with median income dropping 12 percent; Rhode Island had the best performance, gaining 4.4 percent.

Candidates spend weekend in search for votes

With the primary Tuesday, candidates are spending their holiday weekend blitzing the state in a last effort to convert voters to their side.

Minimal gains for workers good news for stocks

The Dow

A Labor Department report showing average wages rose minimally in August gave impetus to Friday's rally on Wall Street. The Dow ended the day's trading at 11,464.15, up 83 points. The Nasdaq composite index finished at 2,193.16, up 9.41 points, while the S&P 500 closed at 1,311.01, up 7.19. The Dow and the S&P hit their highest marks since May, while the Nasdaq hit its highest point since June.The Labor Department report showed average wages rising only about 2 cents an hour during August. Economists saw it as another indicator that the Federal Reserve won't raise interest rates.

August unemployment rate drops slightly

The national unemployment rate for August dropped slightly, to 4.7 percent seasonally adjusted from 4.8 in July, according to a Labor Department report issued Friday. The economy created 128,000 new jobs in August, mostly in education and health services.

The number of unemployed was 7.1 million, compared with 7.4 million in August a year ago, when the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent. The number of workers considered marginally attached to the labor force, meaning they’ve been unemployed for at least a year but did not look for work during the past four weeks, stood at 1.6 million, virtually the same as a year ago.

August unemployment figures for Florida are due out in two weeks.

SEC wins suits in Pompano gold mine case

The Securities and Exchange Commission has won judgments against the CEO of a Pompano Beach-based gold mining operation and two boiler-room operators for their part in a mob-linked pump-and-dump that took place seven years ago.

Federal court Judge James I. Cohn ordered that Warren Heminger, former CEO of Orex Gold Mines Corp. of Pompano Beach, to pay to the court $18,000 in proceeds he received from the stock manipulation scheme, plus a $7,000 civil fine. He was also barred for 10 years from acting as an officer or director of any public company, and is permanently banned from further violations of securities laws.

Cohn also ordered that Robert Vitale and Sal Puccio, former brokers at Preferred Securities Group, also in Pompano Beach, each pay to the court $40,025 in proceeds each earned from the scheme, plus $60,000 each in civil fines. MORE

New Orleans firm buys CocoWalk for $87 Million

MIAMI — PMAT Real Estate Investments LLC, a New Orleans-based real estate development company that has bought CocoWalk, the 200,000-square-foot mall in Coconut Grove, for $87 million. The seller was Thor Gallery at CocoWalk, LLC.

"CocoWalk is a landmark asset in a great location, with some of the best brand name stores and restaurants in Miami," said PMAT Principal Robert Whelan. "We plan to give it a little TLC and restore it to its original condition so that Coconut Grove residents and visitors will again utilize the property as the village's town center."
PMAT plans to spend $5 million to refurbish CocoWalk.
Property One Inc., headed by Paul F. Dastugue III, will assume overall management of the property. Robert Elsdunne is in charge of the local property management team and Marketing Director Love Ondusko-Levy will handle marketing.
Mia Stierheim of Colliers Abood Wood-Fay will serve as the leasing agent. Tenants include The Gap, Victoria's Secret, FYE, Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, and an AMC 16-screen theatre.

Apple's board move could have wide implications

eric schmidtThe appointment of Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt to the board of Apple Computer could signal a far-reaching alliance between the two Silicon Valley companies.

Stocks drop slightly in pre-Labor Day trading

Stocks finished down Thursday but still managed to post gains for the month. The Dow closed at 11,381.15, down 1.76 points; the Nasdaq composite index finished at 2,183.75, down 1.98 points; the S&P 500 finished the day at 1,303.82, down 0.45.

The Dow for the day:

For August, the major indexes posted gains, the Dow up 1.7 percent, the Nasdaq up 4.4 percent and the S&P up 2.1 percent. The gains came despite concerns over war, oil prices and the economy.

Lockheed wins contract for lunar space ship

NASA has picked erospace giant Lockheed Martin to build its next generation space ship, which icould to take astronauts to the moon by the end of the next decade. A NASA official called the multimillion dollar project, called Orion, "Apollo on steriods."

Lockheed Martin beat competitors Boeing and Northrop Grumman for the contract. The space ship could be ready for a test flight by September 2014 and could take astronauts to the moon by 2019 or 2020.

Lockheed promised Florida jobs if it won contract

Lockheed Martin said it would do final testing and assembly of the lunar space ship in Florida if it won the contract for the project.

July spending, income show encouraging gains

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that personal spending in July grew by 0.8 percent, twice the June rate, while personal income grew by 0.4 percent. The reports encouraged some that the economy is slowing into soft landing rather than turning into free fall.


Stocks finish modestly higher on Fed hopes

Hopes that the Federal Reserve might hold back on hiking interest rates helped stocks finish modestly higher Wednesday. The Dow finished the day at 11,382 .91, up 12.97; the Nasdaq composite index closed at 2,185.73; the S&P 500 closed slightly lower at 1,304.27, down 0.01 points.

GDP grows faster than projected; inflation lower

The economy grew faster than originally estimated in the second quarter, while inflation was less than expected, according to government reports issued Wednesday. The gross domestic product grew by a 2.9 percent annualized rate, while the consumer price index bumped up by a 2.8 percent annualized rate.

Declining crude oil prices help push stocks up

Despite flagging consumer confidence and indications that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates, all three major stock indexes finished moderately higher Tuesday.


The Dow closed at 11,369.94, up 17.93 points; the Nasdaq composite index rose 11.60 points to close at 2,172.30; the S&P 500 rose 2.50 points to close at 1,304.28.

Consumer confidence plummets in August

Pushed by a weakening jobs outlook and a declining housing market, consumer confidence in Florida and the nation fell sharply in August, according to separate reports issued Tuesday.

The Conference Board Consumer confidence index, which had increased moderately in July, fell more than seven points to 99.6 from 107. The University of Florida’s consumer confidence index chartconfidence index for the state fell 11 points to 76.
Both declines were the biggest since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last September. MORE



Fed minutes show concerns over economy

Minutes from the August meeting of the Federal Reserve show concerns over a slowing economy, particularly the housing market. The Fed declined to raise interest rates because of the concerns, but the vote was close.

Hurricane Center extends Ernesto warning

From the National Hurricane Center:

At 11 a.m. the tropical storm warning is extended northward along Florida’s east coast north of New Smyrna Beach to Altamaha Sound, Ga.

At 11 the tropical storm watch is changed to a tropical storm warning for the Florida west coast from north of
Bonita Beach northward to Englewood and a tropical storm watch is Issued from north of Englewood to Tarpon Springs.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch remain in effect from New Smyrna Beach southward on the east coast including Lake Okeechobee from Bonita Beach southward on the west coast and for all of the Florida Keys from ocean reef to the Dry Tortugas.

At 11 am the government of the Bahamas has discontinued the tropical storm warning for Ragged Island and Great Exuma in the central Bahamas.

A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch remain in effect for
Andros island the Berry Islands the Biminis and Grand Gahama Island in the northwestern Bahamas.


Stocks finish up on Ernesto forecast

Bad news for Florida was good news for investors. Revised forecasts showing Ernesto heading for the Florida peninsula rather than the oil-rich western portions of the Gulf of Mexico helped push oil prices down and stocks up.

The Dow finished at 11,352.01, up 67.96 points; the S&P 500 closed at 1,301.78, up 6.69 points; and the Nasdaq composite index closed at 2,160.70, a gain of 1.0.


Prudential agrees to settle market timing charges

Prudential Financial Inc. has agreed to pay $600 million in order to settle criminal charges that a subsidiary engaged in deceptive market timing trading in mutual funds.

Meanwhile the Securities and Exchange civilly sued four former Prudential representatives for engaging in thousands of deceptive market timing trades in mutual fund shares worth more than $2.5 billion. More from the SEC.

U.S. stock futures point to lower opening

With overseas markets down and the prospect of more data this week pointing to a slowing economy, stock futures are indicating a lower opening this morning. Marketwatch.

Online newspaper Palm Beach officially launches

Welcome to Palm Beach, Florida’s online, independent business and consumer newspaper. We intend to provide our readers with the best news coverage of business-related topics through our own reporting and through links to the top newspapers in the state and in the nation. We also will provide a host of links that will make this site useful as well as informative. Our goal is to tailor this site to meet the needs of our readers. MORE...


Citizens stops sale of new policies as storm nears

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s home insurer of last resort, has put a hold on selling new policies as Ernesto approachescitizens property insurance corp. logo the state. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for southern portions of the state at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Citizens goes into the so-called no-bind status any time a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning is issued for any part of the state. It won’t sell new policies or increase coverage on policies already in effect until the watch or warning is lifted. The no-bind rule does not affect policies already bought scheduled to go into effect while the watch or warning is in effect.

Most insurers use a less restrictive approach than Citizens, preferring to wait until it is clear where a storm will hit and going into a no-bind mode only in that area.. Carriers will halt the sale of other lines of insurance, such as auto and marine, as well.

The hurricane watch means its possible that a storm could hit within the next 36 hours.

As of July 31, Citizens had 1.2 million policies, making it the largest insurer in Florida.

Stocks mixed Friday; down for the week

The Dow dropped 20.51 points Friday to close at 11,284.05, while the Nasdaq composite index gained 3.18 poionts to close at 2,140.29. The S&P 500 also fell slightly, by 0.97 points to finish the day at 1,295.09. Analysts blamed fears of a slowdown in the economy for the decline.

Feds drop criminal investigation of Fannie Mae

Fannie Mae released a statement Thursday saying that the Department of Justice has ended a criminal investigation of the company that began nearly two years ago.

The company announced in May that it had agreed to comprehensive settlements resolving matters with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In SEC filings, the company said that it would complete its ongoing restatement by the end of 2006.

"We will continue to work closely and cooperatively with our regulators as we move forward to carry out the terms of our agreements, complete our restatement and build a better company," said Daniel H. Mudd, president and chief executive officer.

Commerce Department reports drop in housing sales for July

More evidence that the housing market is cooling: The U.S. Department of Commerce today reported that housing sales — both new and used — declined in July compared with June by 4.3 percent. The numbers, seasonally adjusted, follow Wednesday's report by the Nationial Association of Realtors showing a decline in used home sales.

Speculators washing out of Southeast markets

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —, a California-based real estate investment advisory, reported Monday that the rising number of foreclosures in southeastern housing markets, including Florida, indicates that property flippers who bought at the peak of the price appreciation curve are simply walking away from houses they were unable to sell at a profit.

"Over 8,500 properties in Florida went into foreclosure in the month of June alone," said president Alexis McGee. She added that the problem was being exacerbated by the widespread use of so-called creative mortgage products that people used to buy homes they couldn't afford as prices skyrocketed in overheated coastal markets.

"Now, price appreciation has gone flat and even reversed slightly and this trend is colliding with rising interest rates. People who bought at or near the market peak are being squeezed out of their homes and speculators find themselves trapped by rising costs and negative cash flows," said McGee.

"We think this is only the beginning of a major shakeout. There are about $400 billion of these exotic loans out there across the country that will reset to market rates this year and cause severe payment shock to homeowners," she added.