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VOL. 123 | NO. 48 | Monday, March 10, 2008

Daily Digest

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Two Lots Sold In G'Town Development

     Germantown Investors LLC has sold two lots in the 1.4-acre Poplar Pike Office development, at 7656 and 7658 Poplar Pike, in Germantown. Each lot was slightly more than 0.4 acres and each sold for $365,000. Both deals closed Wednesday.
     Germantown Investors bought the land in May 2006 for $255,000 from Anita Johnson, Emma Jean Combs and Kenneth Harrell. The lots are on the north side of Poplar Pike and south of Southern Avenue, abutting the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
     A call to Germantown Investors, whose office is near the development, was not returned by press time.
     The buying entities, D and P Investments LLC and Vedant Properties LLC, each took out construction loans on Wednesday from Tupelo, Miss.-based BancorpSouth Bank for close to $1 million. D and P Investments' loan was for $940,000, and Vedant Properties' loan was for $960,000.

Residential Foreclosures Total 517 in February

     Residential foreclosures in Shelby County reached 517 for February, according to the most recent data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.
     Of those, single-family home foreclosures led the way with 467, followed by 17 PUD (planned unit development) detached homes and eight condominiums.
     It's an increase from the 415 residential foreclosures in February 2007, but a decrease from the 635 residential foreclosures in January 2008, the data shows.
     The Frayser ZIP code of 38127 again registered the most foreclosures for the month by logging 53 in February. It was followed by the Raleigh ZIP of 38128 with 36 foreclosures and the Westwood ZIP of 38109 and Oakhaven/Parkway Village ZIP of 38118, with 34 foreclosures each.
     Once again, adjustable-rate mortgage products were the leading type of mortgage resulting in foreclosures. There were 126 ARM foreclosures in the month.
     These products have made headlines for the past year as many homebuyers with subprime credit chose to finance with ARMs. Once their interest rates adjusted and the monthly payment increased, many borrowers were unable to pay their mortgages.
     Unable to work out loan arrangements with their mortgage companies - or sometimes not knowing that option was available - thousands of local homeowners went into default and were foreclosed.
     Memphis, in fact, was among the nation's cities to be hit hard by foreclosures, regularly ranking near the top of metro areas for foreclosures per capita, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc.
     But the problem does go deeper than ARMs. Conventional, fixed-rate mortgages accounted for 103 foreclosures in February.

Charter Commission Adds MLGW Sale to Ballot

     Memphis Charter Commission members have added to the list of items on a charter change referendum that will be on its way to city voters later this year.
     The seven commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to add a requirement that Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division could not be sold by the city unless such a sale was approved by Memphis voters in a referendum.
     The change is the bedrock issue that fueled a petition drive that led to the creation and election of the Charter Commission.
     It joins earlier ballot items that would limit City Council members and the Memphis mayor to no more than two terms in office and stagger the terms of City Council members.
     The commission is scheduled to discuss and possibly vote at its March 20 meeting on a charter change that automatically would suspend with pay a council member charged with corruption or other malfeasance related to the office. The council member would be paid but would not be able to participate as a voting council member. The proposal by Charter Commissioner George Brown raises questions about who would represent voters in that council member's district.
     Look for a closer examination of that and other ethics proposals in Thursday's Daily News.

AutoZone to Build Distribution Center

     AutoZone Inc. said Friday it plans to open a new distribution center in Hazleton, Pa., by this summer.
     The new distribution center will employ 400 staffers and distribute parts and products to AutoZone stores in neighboring states.
     Memphis-based AutoZone operates seven distribution centers in the U.S.

Confidence Sinks To Lowest Point Since 2002

     Confidence in the economy dropped to a new low as worries about a possible recession, persistent problems in the housing and credit markets and lofty energy prices put people in a more gloomy mind-set.
     According to the RBC Cash Index, confidence sank to a mark of 33.1 in early March, down from 48.5 in February. The new reading was the worst since the index began in 2002 and surpassed the previous low reached in February.
     The continued deterioration in confidence comes even as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has signaled that the central bank will keep on cutting a key interest rate to bolster the economy.
     Over the past year, consumer confidence has fallen sharply, underscoring the toll of the ailing housing market and a credit crunch that has made it more difficult for people to secure financing for big-ticket purchases such as homes and cars.
     Last March, confidence stood at 92.3. The index is based on results of the international polling firm Ipsos.
     The RBC consumer confidence index was based on the responses from 1,013 adults surveyed last week about their attitudes on personal finance and the economy. Results of the survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The overall confidence index is benchmarked to a reading of 100 in January 2002, when Ipsos started the survey.

Employers Slash 63K Jobs in February

     Employers slashed jobs by 63,000 in February, the most in five years, the starkest sign yet the country is heading dangerously toward recession or is in one already.
     The Labor Department's report, released Friday, also showed that the nation's unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent as hundreds of thousands of people - perhaps discouraged by their prospects - left the civilian labor force. The jobless rate was 4.9 percent in January.
     Job losses were widespread, with hefty cuts coming from construction, manufacturing, retailing and a variety of professional and business services.
     The latest snapshot of the nation's employment climate underscored the heavy toll of the housing and credit crises on companies, jobseekers and the overall economy.
     The report also showed that the job losses suffered in January were worse than the government first reported. Employers cut 22,000 jobs, versus 17,000 reported earlier.
     It was the first monthly back-to-back job losses since May and June 2003, when the job market was still struggling to recover from the blows of the 2001 recession.
     The health of the nation's job market is a critical factor shaping how the overall economy fares. If companies continue to cut back on hiring, that will spell even more trouble.
     Friday's report was much weaker than economists were expecting. They were forecasting employers to boost payrolls by around 25,000.
     However, they were expecting the jobless rate to edge up to 5 percent. The reason why the jobless rate went down, rather than up, is because so many people stopped looking for work and left the labor force.

Area Restaurants to Accept Donations for MIFA

     The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association will be offering a special way for citizens to help the nonprofit organization during March.
     MIFA's "March for Meals" signs will be posted at participating restaurants that will be accepting donations to MIFA from patrons.
     MIFA serves local seniors by delivering meals to the homebound and to public meal sites in Memphis and surrounding counties five days a week.
     Restaurants taking part in the "March for Meals" program include Bhan Thai, Central BBQ, Wings 'n' Things, Dixie Café, El Mezcal on Perkins Road Extended, The Bar-B-Q Shop, Tops Bar-B-Q and Old Zinnie's.
     Bosco's Squared also will donate 5 percent of all lunch sales to MIFA from March 24-28.
     For a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.mifa.org.

White Named TN Small Business Champion

     The National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business advocacy organization, has named Memphis businessman Mark White as its 2008 Small Business Champion in Tennessee.
     The designation is in recognition of White's professional career as well as his outside efforts on behalf of the area's small businesses.
     White co-founded Grand Events & Party Rentals in Memphis in 1990 and has been a member of the NFIB for 14 years. He's been a member of the NFIB state leadership council since 2006 and chairman of the NFIB's local area action council - a group of small-business owners that meets regularly to talk about business issues with legislators - since the council was created four years ago.
PROPERTY SALES 56 437 16,061
MORTGAGES 76 508 18,556
BUILDING PERMITS 241 876 33,390
BANKRUPTCIES 64 301 10,314