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Ugly economic reports keep piling up

By Times Wires
Published March 7, 2008


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WASHINGTON

In an all-too-familiar scenario lately, news from the economic front offered little to cheer about, especially an array of dire housing reports. Wall Street reacted in typical fashion, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 214.60, or 1.75 percent, to 12,040.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 29.36, or 2.20 percent, to 1,304.34, and the Nasdaq composite declined 52.31, or 2.30 percent, to 2,220.50. Among the reports:

- Home foreclosures soaredto an all-time high in the final three months of 2007 and probably will keep rising. The Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday the proportion of all mortgages that slipped into foreclosure set a record, 0.83 percent, from October through December. The previous high, 0.78 percent, came in the July-through-September period.

- Americans' percentage of equity in their homes fell below 50 percent for the first time on record since 1945, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Homeowners' portion of equity slipped to downwardly revised 49.6 percent in the second quarter of 2007, the central bank reported in its quarterly U.S. Flow of Funds Accounts, and declined further to 47.9 percent in the fourth quarter - the third straight quarter it was under 50 percent.

- Industry data released Thursday show January pending U.S. home sales remained at the second-lowest reading on record. The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes held at 85.9, the same reading as December and just short of a revised record low of 85.8 in August.

- Retailers reported mixed February sales results Thursday as shoppers bought the basics, helping low-price operators like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., while shunning mall-based apparel stores, hurting merchants like Gap Inc., Limited Brands Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Overall, the UBS-International Council of Shopping Centers' preliminary sales tally of 39 retailers rose 1.9 percent in February.

TAMPA

Aircraft repair firm signs lease at TIA

Pemco World Air Services won a 15-year lease Thursday to start an aircraft maintenance and repair business in the old US Airways hangar at Tampa International Airport. The company, based in Dothan, Ala., plans to work on its first plane in Tampa this summer and have 410 workers by the end of 2009. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio thanked the company for creating jobs when other employers are laying off workers. "It's very important to our economy and people's lives," she said.

DALLAS

Feds seek $10.2M fine of Southwest

Federal regulators said Thursday they will seek a civil penalty of $10.2-million - the largest ever - against Southwest Airlines Co. for failing to inspect older planes for cracks and then flying them before inspections were done. The FAA said Southwest operated nearly 60,000 flights in 2006 and 2007 using 46 planes that had not been inspected for possible fatigue-related cracking on the fuselage areas.

[Last modified March 6, 2008, 23:33:19]


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