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VOL. 123 | NO. 32 | Friday, February 15, 2008

Daily Digest

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Southern Serenity Buys 9 More Lots in Collierville

     Oakland-based Southern Serenity Homes LLC has bought nine more lots in the Wolf River Ranch Planned Development, phase IV, beefing up the company's presence in the Collierville subdivision to 31 lots.
     Southern Serenity, whose principals are Greg Bridgers and Kevin White, bought the lots from Wolf River Ranch's developer, BCCTT LLC, for $1.1 million, financing it with a $909,600 loan from BankPlus.
     On the north side of Wolf River Boulevard near Byhalia Road, Wolf River Ranch has been approved for 91 lots on 45.12 acres. Southern Serenity officials touted the location as ideal.
     "We'd have bought the whole thing if we could," said office manager Kevin Yoon. "When you throw a dart at the heart of Collierville, it's going to hit Wolf River Ranch subdivision."
     Southern Serenity already has started nine homes in the development and presold one of them, Yoon said, adding that the company's homes start at $545,900.
     Six of the remaining homes under construction are speculative, one is a model home and one will become the 2008 St. Jude Dream Home, benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
     The Dream Home, a model called The Vanderbilt, is more than 4,000 square feet and normally sells for $560,000. The giveaway is June 22, and the house will be open for tours in May and June.
     

More Foreclosure Notices Filed Against Alexander

     Two first-run foreclosure notices begin on Page 29 in the foreclosures section of today's Daily News for properties owned by Charles Alexander, who this week has seen more than 15 foreclosure notices filed against his properties.
     The properties facing foreclosure are 1624 Patton St., for which Alexander took out a loan in 2004, and 484 Simpson Ave., which was mortgaged in 2005.
     U.S. Bank N.A. is the owner and holder of the loan for the Patton Street property, which is scheduled for sale March 13. SunTrust Mortgage Inc. is the owner and holder of the debt for the Simpson Avenue property, slated to be sold March 20.
     The Simpson Avenue loan is
     subject to a tax lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service in October 2006 for $1,247.10.
     Attempts to reach Alexander at several phone numbers have been unsuccessful.
     For details and the full text of other first-run foreclosure notices filed against Alexander this week, visit www.memphisdailynews.com.
     

Bredesen Appoints Wharton To Homeland Security

     Gov. Phil Bredesen has appointed Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. to the state's Homeland Security Council. The appointment comes as county government's merging of its Homeland Security operation with the county and city Emergency Management agencies is undergoing its first test - the Super Tuesday tornadoes that devastated parts of Hickory Hill.
     The county's homeland security operation, which is federally funded, covers a region that not only includes Shelby County but Crittenden County and Desoto County.
     Wharton first moved to restructure the agency in 2006 as the administration conducted its own review of operations that included the discovery of several listening devices in the ceiling of the Homeland Security office on Mullins Station Road.
     Wharton and Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton tapped Bob Nations to be the new director of the Homeland Security-Emergency Management operation. Nations has been a visible part of the storm recovery efforts in the last week and a half.
     

Moody's Considers Thomas & Betts Upgrade

     Moody's Investor Service said Thursday it is considering a possible upgrade of its long-term rating on electrical component maker Thomas & Betts Corp.
     The company is currently on a Baa3 lower medium grade rating.
     Moody's said its review follows Thomas & Betts' "extended period of revenue growth, margin expansion and increasing free cash flow generation".
     It also noted the company's general credit and liquidity improvement, offset by share repurchases and debt-financed acquisitions.
     "The rating review will consider Thomas & Betts' ongoing ability to generate strong operating margins and robust free cash flows, despite the potential for challenging operating conditions in its North American focused businesses," Moody's said.
     It also will consider Thomas & Betts willingness to use cash to pay off acquisition-related debt.
     Memphis-based Thomas & Betts makes electrical components used in industrial, commercial, communications and utility markets.
     

Fed Chair Tells Congress Prospects are Deteriorating

     Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Thursday the economic outlook has deteriorated and signaled a readiness to keep on lowering a key interest rate to shore things up.
     Bernanke also told the Senate Banking Committee that the one-two punch of housing and credit crises has greatly strained the economy. And he forecast sluggish growth in the near term. Bernanke also noted that hiring has slowed and that people are likely to tighten their belts further because of high energy prices and plummeting home values.
     Bernanke also told senators that the "virtual shutdown" of the market for subprime mortgages given to people with blemished credit histories or low incomes - and a reluctance by skittish lenders to make "jumbo" home loans exceeding $417,000 - have aggravated problems in the housing market.
     Unsold homes have piled up and foreclosures have climbed to record highs.
     "Further cuts in homebuilding and in related activities are likely," Bernanke cautioned.
     Given all the dangers facing the economy, he said, the Fed "will act in a timely manner as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks." Bernanke indicated that additional rate cuts were likely. Still, he voiced hope that economic growth will improve later this year.
     Bernanke said his forecast is for the economy to continue to endure a "period of sluggish growth." That would be "followed by a somewhat stronger pace of growth starting later this year" as the effects of the Fed's rate cuts and a newly enacted stimulus package begin to be felt.
     The $168 billion package, which includes rebates for people and tax breaks for businesses, was speedily passed by Congress last week and signed into law on Wednesday by President Bush.
     

Existing Home Sales Fall in 45 States

     Sales of existing homes fell in 45 states - including Tennessee - during the October through December quarter, with metropolitan areas showing growing weakness, a real estate trade group said Thursday.
     The fourth-quarter data from the National Association of Realtors underscore the breadth of the housing market's slump.
     South Dakota was the lone state to show a sales increase. Existing home sales there rose 8.9 percent from the same quarter a year ago.
     Median home prices fell in more than half of the 150 metropolitan areas surveyed. Out of the 77 that experienced declines, 16 showed double-digit percentage drops, the trade group said. The largest price declines were found in Lansing, Mich., Sacramento, Calif., Jackson, Miss., and Riverside, Calif., which posted price declines of 17 to 19 percent.
     Lawrence Yun, the trade group's chief economist, attributed the declines in median prices to mortgage market problems that mushroomed last fall, making loans more expensive for borrowers looking to take out "jumbo" mortgages larger than $417,000, the maximum size of mortgages that government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase and market as securities.
     Nationwide, existing homes sold at an annual rate of 4.96 million units in the fourth quarter, down 21 percent from the sales pace of the third quarter in 2006, the Realtors group said.
     

Cooper-Young Spa To Cater to Males

     A new spa has opened in the Cooper-Young neighborhood at 802 S. Cooper St. that caters primarily to male customers.
     The spa - Gents - is the brainchild of Lisa West, and it includes male-friendly features such as big leather chairs, heavy wooden accents and a flat-screen TV. Light jazz plays in the background, and fresh fruit is available to snack on.
     Products and services offered include a hot lather razor shave and a heated back massage. West plans to ultimately build up a staff of four barbers, three massage therapists and one manicurist.
     A grand opening will be held March 1.
     

Prom Show Expo To Be Held

     Local entrepreneur Telisa Franklin is hosting the third annual Prom Show Expo March 2 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Select-Memphis Airport, 2240 Democrat Road.
     Prom Show Expo is a trade show about prom, graduation and career planning designed for middle and high school students, parents and school professionals.
     The expo drew more than 500 students, teachers and parents last year.
     Produced by Franklin, the owner of That's Love Florist, the event offers exhibits, workshops, entertainment, giveaways and fashion shows.
     

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 69 311 15,028
MORTGAGES 83 338 19,668
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 15 58 3,853
BUILDING PERMITS 0 512 35,842
BANKRUPTCIES 65 247 14,281
BUSINESS LICENSES 16 120 5,111
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 70 316 21,749
MARRIAGE LICENSES 18 93 4,650

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