Housing Pain Pits Neighbor Against Neighbor in Florida

 Minimum wage earners in 7 states getting raises – It will be a happier New Year for nearly 650,000 workers earning minimum wage. They’re getting small raises in seven states that tie their salaries to the cost of living. The minimum wages in those states will go up between 9 cents and 12 cents an hour Saturday because their consumer price indexes rose in 2010. Poverty advocates say the rising minimum wages shouldn’t be seen as raises, just adjustments to keep the working poor at the same level as prices of goods rise. The National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocate for workers, estimates that about 647,000 people will see their paychecks go up in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. "It just ensures minimum wage keeps pace with the rising costs of necessities like milk and bread and gas," said Paul Sonn, legal co-director for NELP.
Sugar Gains for Third Straight Year; Coffee Jumps 77% in 2010  – Sugar futures jumped 5.7 percent today, capping the third straight annual gain, on renewed speculation that global supplies will fall short of consumption. Coffee had the biggest yearly rally since 1994.  Worldwide demand will reach 165.3 million metric tons in the year ending Sept. 30, topping supplies by almost 3 million tons, ABN Amro Bank NV and VM Group have said. In the second half of 2010, sugar prices doubled, leading gains in the period among 19 raw materials in the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index.  “There is going to be a production response that will help temper the rally, assuming there are no production disruptions,”  “If there are any disruptions, there would be a significant reaction. There just isn’t enough sugar around.”  Raw sugar for March delivery climbed 1.74 cents to settle at 32.12 cents a pound at 2 p.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. The percentage gain was the biggest since Nov. 18. Yesterday, the price plunged 10 percent, the largest drop since Nov. 12.

US Commodities: Raw Materials Post Record Second-Half Gain – Commodities posted a record second- half gain as adverse weather slashed global crops, debt woes in Europe boosted demand for precious metals as investment havens and China consumed more of everything from cotton to copper.  The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials jumped 29 percent in the past six months, the most since the gauge debuted in late 1956. Today, gold and copper closed at record settlement prices. This month, cotton extended a rally to an all-time high, silver rose to a 30-year peak and coffee jumped to the highest since 1997.  In 2010, commodity prices beat gains in stocks, bonds and the dollar as China led the recovery from the first global recession since World War II. Crops were ruined by Russia’s worst drought in at least a half century, flooding in Canada and parched fields in Kazakhstan, Europe and South America. Corn and soybeans recorded the biggest second-half increases in five decades.

Cost Of Crude Oil Records 26-Month High To End 2010‎ – Oil prices registered a 26-month high $92/per barrel Friday, ending 2010 with a 15 percent increase on hopes that the improving economy would fuel higher demands next year and send prices into the $100/barrel mark. Stable growths from the Asian market, particularly in China, as well as the increase in demand from developing countries contributed to the four-month rally that catapulted the price of crude oil more than the $70-$80 mark it recorded for most of the year. According to a survey conducted by Reuters, the global demand for oil increased to 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd), its highest growth since 2004 with another 1.5 million projected for 2011. Although oil prices are expected to hit $100/barrel in 2011, experts are not seeing the price level to hit $150 as it did in 2008, the first time crude oil barged into triple digits.

Heating oil prices hit record levels; residents struggling – The story is old. Except this time prices for heating fuels are at a level not seen by owners and operators of providers in a very long time.   Prices, which are averaging around $3 per gallon, have been on a steady incline throughout December. A decline, or even dip, is presently not promised. "There’s people who are getting 5 to 10 gallons to put in their tanks," A household will typically burn 7 to 10 gallons of fuel per day during the winter.  "This economy is the absolute worst I’ve ever seen it. This area in particular is struggling," Bridgeton statistics state unemployment at around 23 percent and median household income $17,536, less than the county-wide average of $50,000.  She said 20 gallon deliveries are becoming normal and "65 to 70 percent of deliveries are for 50 gallons."

Housing Pain Pits Neighbor Against Neighbor in Florida – Few things agitate Sid Schulman, But it galls him when neighbors stop paying their mortgages and maintenance fees, and leave the cost of community upkeep to others. The scene of these frictions is a 28-acre community in southeastern Florida’s Broward County that spreads out on a peninsula, surrounded by a canal, a lake and an eight-foot stone wall.  In a particularly stark example of housing tensions found in many places to varying degrees, the International Village homeowners association responded to the banks’ slowdown in foreclosures with an aggressive step: It began its own foreclosure process. Florida law permits that under certain circumstances. A nonprofit homeowners association can take temporary title of residential units from people who aren’t paying monthly fees they agreed to pay.

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