Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, has plainly stated that there are no options off of the table when dealing with North Korea, which continues to work on nuclear arms and test ballistic missiles capable of easily hitting Japan but claims that it can reach the USA mainland. China seems to be happy to have the US come to it to help with its rogue client state. Terror attacks now seem to be the norm. The last one was in London the third week of March.
Trump, in his first two months of office, took the bill to repeal and replace Obama Care off the table when it became evident that the conservative wing of the Republican Party would not support it. He is now saying he is on to tax reform. The Consumer Confidence Index continues to show an optimistic future. The March 16 reading of 125.6 is the highest since 2000.
A lot of work has been done to qualtify the cost of the “Administrative State” and its costs to our economy. Ted Gayer and Philip Wallach, of the Brookings Institute, have completed a study that estimates that regulation has shaved 0.8 percent of the US annual growth rate. What we know for certain is that on January 1, 2015 the Code of Federal Regulations totaled 178,277 pages in 237 volumes. At the end of that year, there were 3,297 new rules in the pipeline and 218 were “economically significant,” meaning they were projected to have an annual impact of $100 million or more. Maybe Trump’s charge to his cabinet secretaries to look at all rules and regulations will have a positive impact.
The Conference Board Leading Economic Index is also up strongly. Note how the 12-month graph shows an explosive upward trend once the election was over. Is this because Trump, a businessman, was elected instead of a professional politician with a definite leftward, liberal, big government bent?
The housing market remains strong in most of the country. But sales are weaker because of the lack of supply. There are very few starter homes being built. Not good.
Crude Oil continues to hang around the $50.00 per barrel price range.
And natural gas is stuck in the $2.00 – $3.00 mcf price band.
RETAIL AND TRENDS
Gander Mountain filed for Chapter 11 Reorganization. It will close 32 stores. The store at Landmark Quebec is not being closed.
Consumers are eating out less since the election. Surveys cite less disposal income even though the consumer confidence is up.
However, Darden’s seven brands same store sales continue to grow. Olive Garden was especially strong with the 800-unit restaurant showing same store sales up 1.4%, the 10th straight quarter of increased sales for the casual-dining restaurants. Darden also announced that it will buy Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen for $780 million. The high volume Cheddar’s has 165 locations in 28 states and was founded in 1979 in Arlington. Other Darden brands include LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Eddie V’s and The Capital Grill.
Buffalo Wild Wings plans to sell at least 60 corporate owned locations to franchisees in an effort to meet shareholder pressure to bolster its balance sheet. That represents about 10% of corporate stores. 4th QTR 2016 net earnings dropped 38.2%.
WalMart is testing a Convenience Store concept with a 2,500 SF store. One of the first is in Crowley, a suburb of Fort Worth. Inside the standard coffee, hot dogs, sodas etc. are sold. But this store also has a drive through for call in orders. I do not have an opinion on how this is going to work but I am going to go see it the next time I am in Crowley.
Look at the states where Amazon is growing. What does this tell us? Especially what does it say about the high growth and no growth states?
Wendy’s is bucking the trend of less activity. The Dublin, OH burger chain plans to add another 1,000 locations by 2020. It is going to use a more flexible design that will allow it to go into smaller spaces.
Day Star Restaurant Group has closed a number of Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon and Texas Land & Cattle restaurants this quarter. The Plano, Texas group is down to about 30 casual dining restaurants from 105 when the brands were acquired in 2013.
JC Penny announced in February that it is closing two distribution centers and 130 – 140 stores nationwide. The distribution centers in Lakeland, FL and Buena Park, CA, will be closed in June. The store closures, representing 13% – 14% of its portfolio, will be closed in QTR2 2017. Look for Sears to make similar moves.
Big Box CAP rates are creeping up again. While big boxes are getting smaller, the CAP rates are up around 50 basis points this year.
According to the Dallas Business Journal, Texas is expected to add 242,000 jobs in 2017. In reviewing the preliminary numbers from the first quarter, that may be low.
Texas added more grocery stores than any other state last year as HEB and Kroger expand at a rapid clip in Houston and DFW. According to JLL, grocery stores added 18.8 million square feet in 440 stores across the nation in 2016 and 16% of that space was in Texas. Whole Foods, Aldi, Costco and WalMart are growing too although WalMart has cut back significantly from prior years.
In a massive infusion of state highway plans, Texas is adding nearly $9 billion to the budget to improve state highways. That will still not be enough.
CBRE states that the North Texas area is first in the nation in office leasing with nearly 5.3 million square feet of new space leased last year.
The Airports Council named DFW International Airport as the “Best Large Airport in North America”. The Number 1 rank came from passenger surveys of over 320 airports worldwide.
But the DFW home market is also #1 in being the most mismatched home market in the country. More people are looking for starter homes than are on the market and there is a surplus of premium homes available. According to the Texas Realtors and the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, the median home price in 2016 was $235,000, up 9.4% from 2015.
Tarrant County was 5th in the US for population growth in 2016, adding 35,462 new residents last year. F-16 is out; F-35 is in. In separate announcements this month, Lockheed Martin stated that it is moving its F-16 production to Greenville, South Carolina in order to make room for an $8.2 billion expansion of the F-35 fighter jet contract that will add 1,800 more jobs in Fort Worth at the facility across Loop 820 from our Landmark Lakes and Landmark Quebec developments.
NORTHWEST FORT WORTH/LAKE WORTH
Parker Products continues the construction of its 80,000 s/f facility and the Malouf Group from Dallas has closed on a tract for a Service King, both in Lone Star Business Park, the industrial zoned part of the Landmark Quebec Development.
The new corporate office of TD Ameritrade, a 355,000 S/F complex on 78 acres in Southlake, is well underway. The campus is set to open late next year.
I can remember when HY 114 was a two-lane road that we took to HY 287 to go to Colorado. We still take it but the travel times are much faster now that it is six lanes and four lanes. Now it is evident that the dollars spent on roadway projects for the HY 114 expansion and adjoining roadways are paying off. Billions of dollars of development projects along HY 114 include new office buildings, hotels, huge corporate campus projects like the TD Ameritrade development above plus a corporate campus for Schwab. The area is booming.
An 8 screen AMC Theater with 800 luxury recliners is set to open at Clearfork along with Neiman Marcus.
DFW remains one of the hottest markets in the USA. We continue to grow and have a positive approach to business. Things are good and looking better. But when will the cycle end? I do not know. The wild card is President Trump and his commitment to “Drain the Swamp.” Trump reminds me of Ronald Reagan. An actor by trade, Reagan was a free market guy at heart and was determined to get the country out of the mess caused by four years of Jimmy Carter. Reagan deregulated oil and gas and that industry was brought to its knees. It was something that needed to be done but it was still painful. Then deregulation and cleanup of the Savings & Loan nonsense caused the Texas real estate market to collapse.
Trump wants huge cuts in the tax rates, simplification and reduction of regulations. And as a businessman he is very aware of the debt, close to $20 trillion. So what is coming? I do not know but I do know we want to be careful about debt and putting too much faith in continued low interest rates, compressed CAP rates and in general the good times. I think it is time to divest ourselves of any less than Class A assets and get some cash in the bank to take advantage of opportunities where we can buy quality assets at below market prices. I am not saying the cycle is over by any means. But we will not know it is going down until it starts that way and we want a chair when the music stops.
Have a great day and let’s see what happens this quarter.