Pulte Homes posts loss for Q4

Pulte Homes Inc. said Tuesday its loss narrowed in its fourth quarter, and the nation’s largest homebuilder expressed cautious optimism for housing demand this year.

Pulte CEO Richard Dugas said job growth and improved consumer confidence will be needed for a meaningful rebound in new home sales this year. Possible obstacles include the expiration of two homebuyer tax credits, a rise in mortgage rates and tight lending standards, all of which could hurt demand and price stability.

“Externally, while we are cautiously optimistic about housing demand in the year ahead, we can’t control macro conditions, but can only be prepared to respond as the year plays out,” Dugas said.

For the quarter, Pulte reported increased orders and completed sales, as well as improved margins as the company cut costs. [Read the full article]

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Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday cut its outlook on Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. to “negative” from “stable,” saying bond holders could take a hit if the government steps in again to support banks.

However, S&P affirmed the banks’ investment-grade counterparty credit and debt ratings. S&P’s counterparty credit ratings on Citigroup and Bank of America stand at A and A-1.

S&P defines an A rating as one given to a company that has a “strong capacity” to meet its debt payments over time but is more vulnerable to an economic downturn or a change in circumstances than companies that have the higher ratings of AAA or AA.

S&P credit analysts said the outlook revision on the banks “reflects our increased uncertainty about the U.S. [Read the full article]

Jobless Recession: Small business has been a key part of plans to stimulate the economy from the very start of the Obama presidency. So why is this crucial job-creating sector of our economy doing so poorly?

The latest soundings from small business are not reassuring. In its annual poll of 2,114 members, for example, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that “small-business owners entered 2010 the same way they left 2009 — depressed.” Meanwhile, the ADP Small Business Report for January shows companies with fewer than 50 workers shed an additional 22,000 jobs.

These are the businesses that account for 48 million jobs, or 44% of all private nonfarm employment — and two-thirds or more of all employment growth in recent years. But despite efforts by government to “fix” their problems, they’ve only grown worse. The programs were ineffective or never got off the ground. [Read the full article]

Senate Democrats circulated a jobs bill Tuesday that’s light on new initiatives on boosting hiring and heavy with provisions sought by lobbyists for business groups, doctors and the satellite broadcasting industry.

Senate Democrats were working to round up Republican support, but more snow in the nation’s capital made it unlikely the Senate could pass it this week and hand President Barack Obama a quick, badly needed political victory. Republicans are willing partners because much of the bill is made up of tax breaks they support, though many GOP senators said they were still waiting to see the details.

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The 362-page measure is still in draft form and has not been officially released. The draft has very few new ideas for creating jobs, other than a $10 billion plan to exempt companies from paying the employer’s share of Social Security payroll taxes for new hires if they are unemployed and hired this year.

The idea, by Sens. [Read the full article]

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