First Republic Bank -- a private banking and wealth management firm with offices in San Diego -- is being purchased by Merrill Lynch in a deal announced this morning worth $1.8 billion. First Republic will continue as a stand alone operation when the deal is completed, probably in the third quarter. The company specializes in luxury home lending and advisory services at its 43 offices. The deal is priced at $55 a share and the stock is soaring, up $15.44 to $53.74.
Stock prices were little changed Monday. Investors moved to the sidelines ahead of the two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve Board to discuss the economy and interest rates.
Sales of new homes rose for the fourth time in the last six months in December. The Commerce Department reported sales were up 4.8 percent in the month but down 17.3 percent for all of 2006. However, median prices remained stable, ending December at $235,000, down just 1.3 percent compared to the same month a year ago.
Stock prices were mixed again Friday. Investors seemed hesitant to make any new commitments to stocks before Tuesday's meeting of the Federal Reserve Board.
The National Association of Realtors reported this morning that 6.48 million existing homes were sold in the United States last year, down 8.4 percent from the previous year. However, prices remained stable, with the median price for a home sold last month at $222,000, exactly the same as in December 2006. One highlight in the report was that the inventory of homes for sale declined by 7.9 percent. Tomorrow, the Commerce Department will report on new home sales for December.
Stock prices moved sharply lower Thursday in response to news of a bigger than expected drop in December existing home sales. That raised concerns about the housing market dragging down the overall economy.
The proposal by President Bush in his State of the Union address to double the supplies in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve sent oil prices sharply higher yesterday. Crude closed at $55.04 a barrel, up $2.46. The Department of Energy actually announced the plan to raise reserves to 1.5 billion barrels before the president went before congress. The plan is to start building reserves by 100,000 barrels a day later this year and reach the target in 2027. This morning, the DOE said that oil and gasoline reserves both increased in the past week. Crude is now trading below $54.
A rebound in technology stocks led to a broad rally Wednesday. Strong reports from Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) after the close of trading could provide the impetus for even further gains.
Several new surveys suggest that Americans are in a good mood as we start 2007. Investor optimism has climbed to its highest level in three years, according to a report from UBS Wealth Management Research. Over one-third of investors believe this year will end at a higher level than 2006, when the Dow industrials closed at an all-time high. And, while most are still negative, the fears of a collapse in the real estate market are easing. The survey found "50 percent of investors say conditions in their local community's real estate market are getting worse, not better." I wonder why they didn't write the story to say 50 percent of the people think their real estate market is getting better, not worse.
Stock prices rebounded Tuesday despite a sharp increase in oil prices.
The Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games officially filed its plan today to host the 2016 summer games. The group says that the existing facilities in the region are adequate to present the athletic competition without absorbing the costs that are often associated with a new venue. Los Angeles has twice hosted the Olympic games, in 1932 and 1984. The '84 games were so successful that the committee was able to generate a surplus of $235 million. Local sports fans may remember that San Diego hosted several events in 1984 including some equestrian activities. Golfers at Fairbanks Ranch may notice some unique structures on the course, which were part of the jumping competition. That's right, the equestrian events took place on the golf course. An arrangement of flowers in the shape of the Olympic rings still grace the area right outside the course clubhouse.
Stock prices declined Monday as investors continued to focus on corporate earnings reports. They were also hesitant to make major commitments prior to the president's State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
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