Economic Calendar

Friday, March 16, 2012

Apple Hits Pause as Austin Digs Deeper to Net Texas Plant

By David Mildenberg and Amanda J. Crawford - Mar 16, 2012 7:53 AM GMT+0700

Apple Inc. (AAPL) may spurn Austin and go to the Phoenix area to build an operations center that Texas Governor Rick Perry said last week would bring 3,600 jobs to his state’s capital, according to an Austin official.

Arizona’s biggest metropolitan area remains an alternative for the Cupertino, California-based maker of iPhones, iPads and Macintosh computers, Kevin Johns, Austin’s director of economic growth and redevelopment services, said after a City Council hearing on Apple’s expansion plans.

“There is no doubt we would be neck and neck and provide anything Austin could provide and then some,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. He said his city, just east of Phoenix, was among Arizona sites being weighed for an Americas operations center.

Austin’s council is scheduled to vote March 22 on an $8.6 million incentive, adding to a $21 million state grant and whatever Travis County, which includes Austin, can offer to Apple, which is sitting on almost $100 billion in cash or equivalents. The company’s top tax and government affairs executives met with the council today to discuss the incentives.

“We’re just trying to respond to what seems to be a very fair evaluation of a couple of cities,” Johns said. “We’re offering $8.6 million in tax abatement and in return we expect to receive more than $14 million in benefits, so it is very good for them and very good for us.”

‘Looking Forward’

The company is “looking forward to building a new campus in Austin, which will more than double the size of our workforce there over the next decade,” according to a statement from Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman. The company has about 3,500 workers in the Austin area today and won’t comment on competition between sites, she said.

Perry, a Republican who bowed out of the race for the 2012 presidential nomination in January, trumpeted “Apple’s commitment to create these new jobs in Texas” in a March 9 statement. The governor said the company’s $304 million investment was made “in exchange” for the state’s offer of $21 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund over 10 years.

The deal was “contingent upon the finalization of contracts and a local incentive agreement” with Austin and the county, according to the governor’s statement. The city’s incentives would be in the form of property tax relief over a period of 14 years, Johns said. He said Travis County is considering a tax abatement plan smaller than Austin’s.

Record Price

Apple, the world’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $546 billion today, reached a record $600.01 a share before settling at $585.56 on Nasdaq at 5:20 p.m. New York time. The company has about 64,400 employees worldwide.

The company’s Austin area workers are mostly in sales, administrative and finance for the Americas region, Johns said.

Apple’s expansion would create 650 new full-time jobs with an average salary of $63,950 by the end of January 2015, with another 2,985 jobs added through 2021, according to an Austin report. The company would build a 200,000 square-foot structure, followed by an 800,000 square-foot expansion as market conditions warrant, Johns said.

“I can’t get into the incentives that were offered but the state of Arizona was interested in securing this facility,” said Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican. “It sounds like they’ve identified Austin as their site, which is not surprising since they have an existing site” there.

Rejected Site

A site in Phoenix was rejected by Apple because the company said it would be too difficult to get permission to build on the property, which is controlled by the state land department, said Dave Krietor, the deputy city manager. He said Mayor Greg Stanton learned of the interest in the location and made efforts to work with Apple about two weeks ago.

“It was too late,” Krietor said. “They already had selected Austin.”

The Texas Enterprise Fund has invested $443.4 million since its creation in 2003, generating more than 62,000 new jobs, Perry said in the March 9 statement. Arizona has a $25 million deal-closing fund established last year with the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Mildenberg in Austin, Texas at; Amanda J. Crawford in Phoenix at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at


Most Asian Stocks Climb as U.S. Jobs Data Buoys Exporters

By Kana Nishizawa and Yoshiaki Nohara - Mar 16, 2012 9:14 AM GMT+0700

Most Asian stocks rose, with a regional benchmark index set to gain for a 12th week in 13 weeks, after U.S. jobs and manufacturing data added to signs the world’s biggest economy is recovering, boosting the outlook for Asian exporters.

Li & Fung Ltd. (494), a clothes and toys supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., rose 4 percent in Hong Kong. Gree Inc. (3632), a Japanese social networking site, rose 4.1 percent in Tokyo after Citigroup Inc. said its shares are suffering from “excessive” regulatory concerns. Hyundai Wia Corp., an auto parts maker, slumped 5.1 percent in Seoul after its shares were offered at discount by South Korean automakers. BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the No. 1 Australian oil producer, slipped 0.8 percent in Sydney after crude prices fell yesterday.

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at the private-banking unit of KeyCorp in Cleveland, talks about the outlook for U.S. stocks and allocation strategy. McCain speaks with Susan Li on Bloomberg Television's "First Up." (Source: Bloomberg)

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.02 point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 127.89 as of 11:07 a.m. in Tokyo, set to gain for the 12th week in 13. About nine stocks climbed for every seven that fell, with six of the gauge’s 10 industry groups advancing.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) rose 0.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index (AS51) dropped 0.1 percent and South Korea’s Kospi Index slid 0.2 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advanced 0.3 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP), which tracks the bigger of China’s stock exchanges, gained 0.8 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kana Nishizawa in Hong Kong at; Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at


Malaysia Said to Prepare for Potential Election in May or June

By Manirajan Ramasamy - Mar 16, 2012 9:21 AM GMT+0700

Malaysia’s government is discussing the possibility of an early election in May or June, ahead of the due date in early 2013, according to four officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Prime Minister Najib Razak is scheduled to speak on March 26 to as many as 4,000 information ministry staff, who help oversee elections, the government officials said. One date proposed for the contest is June 3, according to three of the officials.

The ruling National Front coalition is seeking to extend its 55 years in power, and an early vote would allow Najib to take advantage of rising public approval after the government announced cash handouts and vowed to overhaul security laws. Satisfaction with Najib’s leadership rose to 69 percent last month from 59 percent in August, according to a poll by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research.

“All signs seem to be pointing toward an election at the end of May or early June,” Ong Kian Ming, a political analyst at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur, said by phone. “It’s the best timing for Najib. If he does wait longer there may be other scandals that emerge and the goodwill that he’s enjoying from the budget handouts given out earlier this year may be lost.”

Election Sweeteners

While Najib has offered election sweeteners, he is also grappling with a potential scandal after a member of the ruling party said she’ll resign from the Cabinet amid a corruption probe against her husband. Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will step down next month as minister for women, family and community, according to the Star newspaper.

Najib had already sparked speculation of an early vote when he said in December that preparations had begun for the contest. His budget announced in October featured cash payments to low- income families.

Malaysia will also announce plans for a minimum wage this month, a government official said earlier this week. Najib’s cabinet has yet to complete the plan, according to the official.

Najib’s rising popularity has reduced the risk of a surprise election result such as one that occurred in 2008 and led to a stock market sell-off, according to a March 13 report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. In 2008, the ruling National Front lost a third of its seats.

Stock Rise

Since Najib took office in April 3, 2009, the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index (FBMKLCI) has risen 74 percent compared with a 47 percent gain for the MSCI Asia Pacific index.

“The Prime Minister is focused on delivering prosperity, security and democracy for all Malaysians and will call an election when the time is right for the country,” a Malaysian government spokesperson said by e-mail.

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was acquitted of sodomy charges in January that he claimed were politically motivated. He pledged to “clamor for reform” in a bid to unseat Najib after the verdict.

Gross domestic product may expand 5 percent to 6 percent this year, Najib said in the annual budget speech on Oct. 7. The economy expanded by 5.1 percent last year, the government said Feb. 15.

Before 2008, the worst showing for the National Front was in 1969, when candidates representing urban ethnic Chinese and rural Islamic opposition groups won more than a third of seats in Parliament. Ethnic Chinese victory marches prompted a backlash from Malay groups that led to emergency rule.

Najib’s father, Abdul Razak, took over as prime minister in 1970 and responded by creating an affirmative-action policy that gave Malays educational, housing and job preferences.

To contact the reporter on this story: Manirajan Ramasamy in Kuala Lumpur at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at


Yen Poised for Weekly Loss Against Most Peers on U.S. Data, BOJ

By Monami Yui and Kristine Aquino - Mar 16, 2012 9:29 AM GMT+0700

The yen headed for a weekly drop against most peers as signs of growth in the U.S. economy and prospects for further stimulus by Japan’s central bank prompted investors to seek higher-yielding assets.

The greenback traded 0.9 percent from an 11-month high versus the yen before U.S. data today that may show industrial production increased and consumer sentiment improved. The Australian and New Zealand dollars were set for a weekly gain against the yen after stocks rallied globally yesterday, boosting demand for riskier assets. Most Bank of Japan (8301) board members said easing steps taken last month were “appropriate,” policy meeting minutes released today showed.

The Japanese currency has fallen 1.2 percent this week, set for a sixth-straight decline. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Derek Halpenny, European head of currency research at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., talks about currency strategy for the yen, dollar and Swiss franc. He speaks with Maryam Nemazee on Bloomberg Television's "The Pulse." (Source: Bloomberg)

“I’d have to say the momentum is still firmly for a weaker yen,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency strategist in Sydney at Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC) “The BOJ’s easing stance definitely seems to have at least contributed to the upswing in dollar- yen.”

The yen was little changed at 83.45 per dollar as of 11:26 a.m. in Tokyo from the close yesterday, when it touched 84.18, the weakest level since April 13. The Japanese currency has fallen 1.2 percent this week, set for a sixth-straight decline. It rose 0.1 percent to 109.19 per euro, set for a 0.9 percent drop since March 9. The dollar traded at $1.3084 per euro from $1.3080 yesterday and $1.3123 on March 9.

Australia’s currency was unchanged at 87.96 yen, set for a weekly advance of 0.9 percent. New Zealand’s kiwi dollar bought 68.60 yen from 68.45 yen yesterday and 67.74 on March 9.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) of shares rose 0.6 percent yesterday, while the MSCI World Index rallied 0.7 percent. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index remained higher after a three-day gain.

BOJ Easing

The BOJ unexpectedly expanded its asset purchase program by 10 trillion yen ($120 billion) and set an inflation goal of 1 percent at its meeting that concluded on Feb. 14. One board member said the central bank should aim for 2 percent inflation, minutes showed.

The BOJ on March 13 expanded loans designed to boost long- term growth. On the same day, the Federal Reserve raised its outlook for U.S. growth, predicting unemployment “will decline gradually.

The dollar has risen against 15 of its 16 major counterparts this week as signs of strength in the U.S. economy reduced the chance for a third round of bond purchases -- known as quantitative easing or QE3 -- by the Fed to spur growth.

Industrial output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities climbed 0.4 percent in February, according to the median of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before today’s data release. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose to a one-year high of 76 in March, a separate poll showed ahead of the figures due today.

Reduced QE Risks

‘‘We are, for the most part, quite positive on the U.S. dollar in the coming weeks,’’ said Westpac’s Callow. ‘‘People in general are saying QE3 risks have receded and I think that’s fair.”

The dollar has strengthened 1.1 percent in the past month, according to Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes that track 10 developed-market currencies. The euro rose 0.6 percent, while the yen sank 5.1 percent, the worst performer.

The Dollar Index (DXY), which Intercontinental Exchange Inc. uses to track the greenback against the currencies of six major U.S. trading partners, was little changed at 80.282 today. The gauge, which is 57.6 percent weighted to movements in the euro, touched 80.738 yesterday, the strongest since Jan. 18.

The greenback’s 14-day relative strength index against the yen was at 75 today, having held above 70 since March 9. Some traders see RSI levels above 70 as a sign an asset may reverse direction. The euro’s RSI versus the yen was at 69 yesterday.

“The dollar-yen looks to be nearing its peak,” said Minori Uchida, a senior analyst in Tokyo at Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi. “The dollar has been too strong and the yen has been too weak, leading to some selling in the pair. I expect the dollar-yen to stay around the 83 level for a while.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Monami Yui in Tokyo at; Kristine Aquino in Singapore at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rocky Swift at


Oil, Won Advance on U.S. Growth Optimism; China’s Stocks Climb

By Lynn Thomasson and Ben Sharples - Mar 16, 2012 9:30 AM GMT+0700

Crude oil rose for the first time in three days and the won strengthened before U.S. data that may show consumer confidence rose to a one-year high and factory output increased. Shares of Chinese companies gained on upbeat earnings reports.

Oil added 0.4 percent to $105.53 a barrel as of 11:20 a.m. in Tokyo. The won rose 0.3 percent versus the dollar. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (MXAP) and futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.8 percent. Australian bond risk fell to a seven-month low.

South Korea 10,000 won notes are arranged for a photograph in Seoul, South Korea. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

The S&P 500 climbed above 1,400 for the first time since 2008 yesterday after jobless claims matched the lowest level in four years and manufacturing in the New York region expanded at the fastest pace since June 2010. Most Bank of Japan board members said easing steps taken last month were “appropriate,” according to minutes of their last policy meeting.

“The U.S. appears to have established a pretty good base for growth,” said Ric Spooner, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “The economic news is good. We’re headed in the right direction and that’s certainly a positive for oil.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index has gained 0.8 percent this week, the 12th advance in 13 weeks. The gauge’s 12 percent rally this year has pushed valuations to 15.1 times estimated profit, the highest level since May 2010, Bloomberg data show.

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.3 percent today, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.1 percent and South Korea’s Kospi Index declined 0.2 percent. The Hang Seng Index rose 0.1 percent.

Zoomlion, BoCom

Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co., China’s biggest crane-maker, rallied 4.9 percent in Hong Kong after reporting profit that jumped 73 percent in 2011. Bank of Communications Co. climbed 2.3 percent in Hong Kong after the lender said yesterday it plans to raise 56.6 billion yuan ($8.9 billion) in the world’s biggest share sale since May.

“We spend a lot of time monitoring U.S. data and the way it’s developing positively over the past few months is very encouraging,” said Angus Gluskie, who manages more than $350 million at White Funds Management in Sydney. “We are moving into the start of a more favorable upward spiral.”

The dollar has risen against 14 of its 16 major counterparts this week as signs of strength in the U.S. economy reduced the likelihood of a third round of bond purchases -- known as quantitative easing or QE3 -- by the Federal Reserve to spur growth. The yield on 30-year Treasuries climbed 24 basis points since March 9, set for the biggest weekly gain since August 2009. The rate was little changed today at 3.42 percent.

U.S. industrial output climbed 0.4 percent in February, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg before data today. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment may have reached 76 in March, a seventh monthly increase, projections show.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lynn Thomasson in Hong Kong at; Ben Sharples in Melbourne at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Regan at


Warmth Expected Across U.S. for Next Three Months, U.S. Says

By Brian K. Sullivan - Mar 16, 2012 1:57 AM GMT+0700

A streak of above-normal temperatures that led to the fourth-warmest U.S. winter on record is expected to continue for the next three months, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

NOAA said the southern states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi will have the highest chance of warm weather from March through May. The forecast was part of a report that said Texas may get drought relief and that the risk of spring river flooding will be the lowest in four years.

Students near Harvard Square in Cambridge on March 11, 2012. Photographer: Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Sexy Black Guys Dancing performers on March 13, 2012 in New York City. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Temperatures around the U.S. have been as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (19.4 Celsius) above normal in the past week, with 400 record highs set yesterday, said Laura Furgione, deputy director of the National Weather Service.

“We’re already feeling May-like warmth in parts of the country this week,” Furgione said in a conference call by U.S. weather agencies with reporters.

Warmer temperatures across the U.S. in the last three months has “decimated the market” for natural gas, said Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and reduced the need for all types of energy for heating. The trend is expected to continue through May in the eastern U.S. as well as the Southwest.

The natural gas market looks for cold air in Illinois during the winter and hot weather in Texas during the summer when gauging weather impact, said Teri Viswanath, director of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas in New York.

Watching Natural Gas

Those two areas make good barometers because natural gas is their primary fuel for heating and cooling, she said. In the mid-Atlantic region and Northeast, a wider variety of fuels is used to heat homes.

Natural gas for April delivery fell 0.5 cent, or 0.2 percent, to settle at $2.279 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The futures, which are down 24 percent this year, fell to $2.204 on March 13, the lowest intraday price since Feb. 15, 2002.

“We obviously have a glut in the supply,” said Schork. “Without any significant cooling demand or air-conditioning demand, the glut will persist through this summer and will continue to weigh on price.”

A snowstorm in the Northeast at the end of October bolstered predictions by some forecasters that the U.S. would be in for a frigid winter. The cold weather never materialized, and with increasing production and weak industrial demand, gas inventories soared.

Warm Winter

This winter in the contiguous U.S. was the warmest since the record winter of 2000, the climate center said. Meteorologists designate winter as being from Dec. 1 to Feb. 29. The calendar start to spring is based on the equinox.

Winter wheat has begun to break out of dormancy across the Midwest and Plains, and corn planting is ahead of schedule in the South, said MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Less snow across the contiguous U.S. and drier soil mean most of the U.S. faces a normal or below-normal risk of spring flooding, Furgione said.

“This is the first time in four years without a high risk of major flooding,” Furgione said.

The Ohio River Valley and Louisiana have an elevated risk of high water, Furgione said. They aren’t expected to face anything close to the record flooding that swept down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers last year.

The report also said parts of northeastern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas may get some relief from a severe drought. However, a large part of the southern U.S. from California to Florida is still struggling with drought and that is expected to continue, said David Brown, director of NOAA’s Southern Regional Climate Services.

“The historic magnitude means recovery from the drought will be a very slow process,” Brown said on the conference call.

Brown said the drought caused $6.5 billion in agricultural losses in Texas and Oklahoma last year and led to wildfires that burned 4 million acres in Texas alone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at


Trump Goes Bottom-Fishing for Golf Courses

By Christine Harvey - Mar 16, 2012 3:16 AM GMT+0700
Mirek Towski/FilmMagic for Laura Davidson Public Relations/Getty Images
Trump International Golf Course, Raffles Resort.

Investors from Donald Trump to luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL) are wagering there’s money to be made buying golf courses after a building boom fueled by Tiger Woods’s popularity led to a glut.

Standalone 18-hole golf properties in the U.S. sold for a median price of $3 million through the third quarter of 2011, which is about the threshold for a luxury apartment in Manhattan. That’s down from $4.5 million in 2006, according to data from real-estate broker Marcus & Millichap.

Donald Trump, chairman and president of The Trump Organization. Photographer: Mannie Garcia/Bloomberg

Tiger Woods hits his approach shot on the sixth hole during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Golf Resort And Spa on March 11, 2012 in Miami. Photographer: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

“Lack of financing is really causing a discount to value and investors are taking advantage,” Steven Ekovich, Florida- based director of Marcus & Millichap National Golf & Resort Properties Group, said in a telephone interview. “Golf courses may never be as cheap as they are today.”

Prices slumped after lenders including General Electric Co. (GE) stopped financing courses and investors in commercial mortgage backed securities retreated amid losses on deals made at the height of the property bubble. The number of courses in the U.S. has declined every year since 2006, according to the National Golf Foundation. That follows two decades of expansion, including a surge starting in the late-1990s fueled by excitement about the emergence and dominance of Woods over the sport.

“They built too many courses during the Tiger Boom and now they’re closing and disappearing,” said Trump, who announced last month he’s purchasing the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami for $150 million out of bankruptcy. The resort features five courses on 800 acres, including the Blue Monster, and about 700 hotel rooms. “At some point enough will disappear that golf will be a really good business.”

Tiger Wins Masters

There are about 16,000 golf courses in the U.S. and approximately 1,100 of those opened since 2000, according to the Jupiter, Florida-based National Golf Foundation.

The sport’s popularity soared after Woods won the 1997 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. In 2000, when an unprecedented 400 courses were opened, Woods captured the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, California, by a record 15 strokes. When Woods, 36, is in contention to win a tournament, television ratings typically surge by as much as 50 percent, according to Nielsen Co. figures.

The golfer hasn’t won a U.S. PGA Tour event since September 2009 as his career has been derailed by extramarital affairs and injuries. He withdrew from the Cadillac Championship at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami last weekend with a strained left knee and Achilles.

Building Boom

The number of U.S. courses overall has declined by about 350 since 2006 with closures outpacing new development, according to National Golf Foundation figures.

The building boom in the 1990s was fueled primarily by increasing demand for golf, rising American affluence and entrepreneurs that built thousands of high-end real estate and premium public courses, Greg Nathan, a senior vice president for the National Golf Foundation, said in an e-mailed statement. Woods’s popularity and sporting success “has only marginal validity,” as an explanation for the building surge, he said.

Peter Nanula, a former corporate lawyer and member of private-equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC, has up to $50 million to buy golf properties that he intends to revamp and sell within five to seven years.

Nanula Bids

Nanula, the former chief executive officer of Arnold Palmer Golf Management, started Concert Golf Partners in 2010. The investment firm made its first course purchase in July when it bought Heathrow Country Club’s golf course and racquet club for $4.5 million. The Lake Mary, Florida club, located in Northern Orlando, was previously sold in 1996 for $20 million, the Orlando Sentinel reported, citing Seminole County court records.

“Mortgages are gone, so buyers are paying in cash and the value of properties keeps getting lower and lower,” said Nanula, who’s currently bidding on four properties.

Declining home values also are pushing the price of golf courses lower as many are attached to housing developments where homeowners are delinquent on their loans or in foreclosure, Marcus & Millichap’s Ekovich said.

Homes values fell 4 percent in December from a year earlier and are down 34 percent from a July 2006 peak, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities.

Toll Brothers, the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder, is buying private golf clubs as an alternative until the residential real estate market improves, according to David Richey, president of Toll Golf, a division of the Horsham, Pennsylvania-based company.

Toll plans to buy three golf properties in cash at “distressed prices” between $3 million and $4 million by the end of this year, Richey said.

The homebuilder rose 49 cents, or 2 percent, to $24.88 as of 4:02 p.m. in New York. It’s gained about 22 percent this year and is at the highest level since October 2008.

Lending Dried Up

Lending to buy the properties has dried up after Textron Inc., GE Capital and Capmark Financial Group Inc., once “the go-to financiers” for golf mortgages, pulled out of the business, according to Don Rhodes, a former manager of Textron’s golf credit business, and now head of investment at Florida- based CNL Lifestyle Company LLC, a property group.

CMBS investors, who buy bonds backed by loans tied to shopping centers, hotels and apartment buildings, are also shunning debt linked to the sport, after suffering losses from deals made before 2007.

Trump Buying Doral

Trump is buying the Doral Golf Resort & Spa out of bankruptcy five years after Morgan Stanley (MS) acquired it as part of the $6.7 billion purchase of CNL Hotels & Resorts Inc.

A $1 billion loan tied to the property was parceled inside a commercial mortgage bond in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A lender group including New York-based hedge fund Paulson & Co. and Winthrop Realty Trust (FUR) seized control of the CNL Hotel & Resort properties including the Doral from New York- based Morgan Stanley last year before putting it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Bundling loans on golf courses into CMBS isn’t “likely” to be repeated because too many investors realized “huge losses” and “don’t want to make that bet again,” according to Chuck Elfsten, president and chief executive officer of commercial real estate lender Ocean Pacific Capital.

“Ninety percent of golf CMBS investors will not touch golf courses with a 10 foot pole, maybe even with a 20 foot pole,” Elfsten of Irvine, California-based Ocean Pacific Capital, said in a telephone interview.

Seller Financing

About 80 percent of golf course deals recorded last year were paid for in cash or with private equity, according to Ekovich of Marcus & Millichap. Course purchasing re-emerged in the other 20 percent in special circumstances such as seller financing and localized lending, Ekovich said.

Bobby Silva, vice president of business development at Texas-based Escalante Golf, has acquired eight 18-hole golf courses since 2008 and said he purchased one course through seller financing. If sellers give that option, they usually carry up to 75 percent of loan value with an interest rate between five and seven percent, according to Silva.

“It’s not what you could get from a local institution but it’s still pretty competitive,” Silva said in a telephone interview.

Few lenders take this route because they don’t want to finance their own foreclosed assets, Marcus & Millichap Golf & Resort Properties wrote in a semi-annual report.

‘Taken a Hit’

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) has taken back “a dozen or so golf courses since 2008,” according to Ken Kasten, asset manager within a bank unit that oversees some real estate. Some of them have been sold while the others are managed and operated by Wells Fargo, Kasten said. Whatever the case, the San Francisco- based lender doesn’t offer any type of seller financing for golf-course assets, according to Kasten.

“We’ve taken a hit on those properties once so we’re not going to make that risk again,” Kasten said.

Last year, median gross revenue per course increased by 1.4 percent, according to PGA PerformanceTrak, a golf data collection service, in cooperation with National Golf Course Owners Association.

Golf course investment is also expected to increase this year, though it’s predicted to be a “cash heavy,” market until financing returns on a national platform, according to Marcus & Millichap.

Until then Trump, Nanula and other investors are seeking out properties.

“I’m only able to do it because I can write a check,” said Trump, the real-estate investor and reality TV star who last year said he may run for President of the U.S.

“Banks aren’t so generous these days so if you can’t pay with cash you might as well forget about it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Christine Harvey in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Urban at


S&P 500 Tops 1,400 on Better-Than-Estimated Economic Data

By Rita Nazareth - Mar 16, 2012 4:30 AM GMT+0700

U.S. stocks advanced, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above 1,400 for the first time in almost four years, as data showed manufacturing in the New York region unexpectedly increased and jobless claims declined.

Financial (S5FINL), industrial and commodity shares rose the most among 10 groups in the S&P 500. Bank of America Corp., General Electric Co. and Dow Chemical Co. added at least 1.6 percent. International Business Machines Corp. rallied for a seventh day to an all-time high. Apple Inc. (AAPL) reversed earlier gains after topping $600 for the first time. The Dow Jones Transportation Average, a proxy for economic growth, increased 3.3 percent.

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Pimm Fox and Deborah Kostroun report on the performance of the U.S. equity market today. U.S. stocks advanced, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above 1,400 for the first time in almost four years, as data showed manufacturing in the New York region unexpectedly increased and jobless claims declined. (Source: Bloomberg)

March 15 (Bloomberg) -- William Cohan, author of "Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World" and a Bloomberg View columnist, and Bloomberg's Christine Harper talk about Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s corporate culture and departing executive Greg Smith's op-ed piece attacking the firm. They speak with Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg Television's "InsideTrack." (Cohan is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. Source: Bloomberg)

The S&P 500 advanced 0.6 percent to 1,402.60 at 4 p.m. New York time, exceeding the median 2012 projection of strategists surveyed by Bloomberg of 1,400. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 58.66 points, or 0.4 percent, to 13,252.76, gaining for a seventh straight day, the longest winning streak in 13 months. About 7.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, or 7.5 percent above the three-month average.

“It’s been a smooth ride,” said Russ Koesterich, the San Francisco-based global chief investment strategist for the IShares unit of BlackRock Inc. His firm oversees $3.51 trillion as the world’s largest asset manager. “The economy is doing better than people thought. The buying is justified.”

The S&P 500 closed at its highest level since June 5, 2008. (SPX) On that date, the index climbed 2 percent to 1,404.05, led by a 7.8 percent rally in Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The securities firm had lost a third of its value in the previous month and filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. The S&P 500 went on to plunge 52 percent before bottoming in March 2009.

Best Since 1998

The benchmark gauge is on pace for the best first quarter since 1998, after rallying 12 percent, amid better-than- estimated economic and corporate reports. It trades at 14.5 times reported earnings, the highest valuation level since July while still below the average since 1954 of 16.4 times earnings.

Equities rose today as manufacturing in the New York region expanded in March at the fastest pace since June 2010. Claims for jobless benefits fell last week, matching the lowest level in four years, more evidence the labor market is improving. Separate data showed that the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index increased to 12.5 in March from 10.2 last month, beating economists’ estimates.

“The U.S. economic numbers are quite encouraging,” Richard Sichel, who oversees $1.6 billion as chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co., said in a telephone interview. “People who haven’t gotten into the market might be drawn in because the economy is improving and there are some relative good values out there.”

GE, Dow Chemical

More than two stocks gained for each falling on U.S. exchanges today. The Morgan Stanley (MS) Cyclical Index of companies most-dependent on economic growth advanced 1.6 percent. GE added 1.9 percent to $20.16. Dow Chemical rose 1.6 percent to $35.

Bank of America rallied the most in the Dow, surging 4.5 percent to $9.24. The KBW Bank Index (BKX) jumped 2.7 percent as all of its 24 stocks advanced. The gauge has climbed 8.8 percent in three days following dividend increases this week by banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Shares of the New York-based bank added 2.6 percent to $44.70.

S&P 500 companies have never paid more dividends, according to Howard Silverblatt, S&P’s senior index analyst. Announced payouts imply an annual dividend rate of $29.02 per index share, he said. The prior record was $28.96 in June 2008 before the figure slid 26 percent to $21.44 in August 2009. It has since risen 35 percent. S&P 500 companies are paying out 30 percent of profits, less than the average of 52 percent, S&P data show.

‘Back in Fashion’

“Companies have the money, they have the ability, and dividends are back in fashion,” he said in a telephone interview today. “We would expect to see more banks.”

Technology shares, which comprise more than 20 percent of the S&P 500, rose 0.3 percent. IBM (IBM) advanced to a record, adding 0.6 percent to $206. Apple Inc. fell 0.7 percent to $585.56, snapping a six-day rally. The company will start selling a new iPad tablet tomorrow and cut the price of the previous version, helping widen its lead over competitors.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) gained 6.3 percent to $8.25. The second-largest maker of processors for personal computers was moved to buy from hold at Jefferies, which increased the 12- month price estimate to $10.50 from $7.

Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) dropped 1.4 percent, the most in the Dow, to $19.91. The maker of equipment for computer networks agreed to buy NDS Group Ltd. in a deal valued at about $5 billion to add software used in next-generation video services.

Transportation Stocks

A measure of transportation shares in the S&P 500 had the biggest gain among 24 industries, adding 3.2 percent. The Bloomberg U.S. Airlines Index jumped 3.8 percent. FedEx Corp. (FDX) increased 2.6 percent to $94.61.

CSX Corp. (CSX) rose 8.5 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $21.92. The biggest eastern-U.S. railroad expects record first- quarter earnings even with a drop of as much as 30 percent in domestic utility coal shipments.

Scholastic Corp. (SCHL) surged 13 percent to $36.36, the highest level since February 2008. The children’s book publisher boosted its full-year forecast, saying it now expects to earn at least $2.60 a share from continuing operations. The company had projected $2.10 at most.

Nucor Corp. (NUE) fell 1.1 percent to $43.45. The largest U.S. steelmaker by market value forecast first-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates after an increase in imports and domestic production.

EBay Inc. (EBAY) slumped 2.1 percent to $36.83. The largest Internet marketplace was downgraded to neutral from outperform at Credit Suisse Group AG.

Guess? Inc. (GES) tumbled 10 percent, the most in the Russell 1000 Index, to $32.97. The clothing retailer forecast fiscal 2013 earnings of no more than $2.65 a share, below the average analyst estimate of $3.16 a share, according to a Bloomberg survey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rita Nazareth in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at