Wednesday PM August 15th, 2007

Houston home sales rebound; national figures still weak...Senator Dodd calls on Bush administration not to side with companies in Supreme Court case involving Enron...MMS says 15 Gulf of Mexico rigs currently drill in ultra-deepwater...

Sales in the Houston real estate market rebounded from the previous two months of declining sales, according to the Houston Association of Realtors. Moderate weakness is still registering in the $80,000 to $150,000 range. Total property sales for the month reached 8,114—a 1.1 percent increase compared to July 2006. Properties sold during the month were worth $1.7 billion—a 5.3 percent increase compared to the same month last year. The median price for a single-family home is at $155,100 for July—a decline of a half percent--and the average price came in at $209,339—an increase of 1.8 percent. The number of available homes was 52,976 properties at the end of July—an increase of 16.1 percent from July of last year. HAR Chairman Rob Cook says while the Houston housing market has held up much better than the rest of the nation, the mortgage finance problems have resulted in some volatility in the lower price ranges.

There's growing pessimism in the home-building industry. The National Association of Home Builders says its Housing Market Index fell two points to 22 this month, the lowest reading since January 1991 and the sixth-straight monthly decline. The index tracks builders' perceptions of current market conditions and expectations for home sales over the next six months. The real estate trade group says many potential buyers are taking a "wait-and-see attitude'' because of the widespread attention to the housing market's slump and the troubled home loan industry. All regions registered a decline in builder confidence, except for the south, where the reading was unchanged. Sales of previously-owned homes fell in 41 states during the second quarter. The biggest decline came in the midwest. Still, officials say they see some glimmers of hope in the data. They point out that existing prices were up in 97 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed compared with the sales prices of a year ago.

Some U.S. Senators are calling on the Bush administration not to side with defendant companies in a Supreme Court case involving Enron. Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, who heads the Senate Banking Committee, urged the administration not to file a Friend of the Court brief. A Justice Department spokesman declined comment. The administration in June rejected a Securities and Exchange Commission recommendation and did not support the position of investors suing banks for damages. The high court has not decided whether to hear arguments in the Enron case. But justices have agreed to review a similar suit brought by investors against suppliers to one of the nation's largest cable TV companies. If the court rules against investors in the cable TV suit, it could mean that other cases--like the Enron shareholders suit--would not be able to go forward.

Tropical storm Erin has formed in the Gulf of Mexico--and the system is headed toward southeast Texas. Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos is urging residents to evacuate trailers and mobile homes on South Padre Island. But Cascos says the storm appears to have veered northward and that few vacationers seemed nervous enough to leave. Out in the Gulf, Shell Oil evacuated 188 people from offshore facilities in the storm's path. On Tuesday, Shell temporarily shut-in about five million cubic feet of natural gas production per day from the North Padre Island 975 field, 75 miles southeast of Corpus Christi. The National Weather Service in Brownsville says Erin is likely too close to land to gain enough wind speed to become a hurricane.

The Feds say 15 rigs are drilling for oil and natural gas in the ultra-deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico at depths of 5,000 feet or greater. The Minerals Management Service says that's a record number of drilling rigs for ultra-deepwater areas. The report shows the continuation of a decade-long trend of petroleum explorers turning more to the deeper regions of the Gulf. Currently, about 70 percent of the gulf's oil production and 40 percent of its natural gas production come from depths of 1,000 feet or greater. Last month, Anadarko Petroleum's Independence Hub, a semi-submersible platform located in 8,000 feet of water, began producing natural gas. Officials say it's the world's largest offshore petroleum facility and deepest production platform. Anadarko is based in The Woodlands.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...