Author Archives: Bill Wilson

I’m the real estate and retail reporter for the Eagle’s Business Today. I’ve spent a quarter-century in newspapers, primarily as a cops, courts and investigative reporter, and in management.

More bad news for OKC energy firm

Aubrey McClendon’s problems have gotten a little deeper at Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, Reuters reports.

It’s never a good thing when the Securities and Exchange Commission thinks your financial dealings are a good subject for some investigation.

 

It’s supply and demand, stupid

Here’s a column from a McClatchy colleague that nicely summarizes the great oil price debate, including the requisite supply and demand canard from those who angrily defend price hikes. I loved the column. I lived the column in this space, actually.

And here’s another piece on the difficulty in prosecuting those who manipulate oil prices on the commodities market.

The one thing we do know, as Bob Ray Sanders points out, is that it isn’t supply and demand, as much as those who are profiting today want you to believe that it is.

Uh-oh, Oklahoma City

With a lifetime of ties to Oklahoma, it’s been uncanny to notice how many of the state’s legendary businesses successes turn into falling stars.

The latest wobbling success story is Chesapeake Energy, the Aubrey McClendon energy empire now reportedly threatened by its CEO’s internal loans.

Chesapeake has been one of Oklahoma City’s shining jewels in Bricktown revitalization, and McClendon has been active in that downtown revival, including his piece of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, so any corporate problems would be a huge blow to the city and the state.

Something to watch.

A decade of lusting for Costco

I’ll admit it: I’ve never been in a Costco. I hate wine, which some of my commercial real estate friends say is the big advantage of shopping there. And, our laws wouldn’t allow that anyway.

Plus, I have a hard time visualizing the financial wisdom of anyone going toe-to-toe with Wal-Mart/Sam’s and, to a lesser extent, Dillons, in the bloated Wichita market. And I’m habitually skeptical of any claims that “we sell for less.”

So I’m a little surprised by all the furor over a Sam’s Club redux. And, after a little research, by how long the Costco craze has been percolating in Wichita. This story courtesy of Google takes Costco fever back a full decade in Wichita – and they’re still not here.

 

A few U.S. senators get it on oil speculation

Very few of them, apparently, as this very informative Reuters piece illustrates.

Nonetheless, it’s somewhat heartening to those of us getting financially destroyed twice a week at the gas pumps to see that a few policymakers have grasped who the demolition groups are.

And it’s again useful to underscore that President Obama appointed a Goldman Sachs ex, Gary Gensler, to oversee the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which has predictably – given Gensler’s pedigree – sat idly by thus far.

 

Car sales on the rise

Having just purchased a nice used car, I found this report on car sales interesting from the Baltimore Sun.

Like the consumers described by the Sun, I gritted my teeth and put my longtime lusting for a Toyota Tacoma pickup – and its horrific 19 mpg – to the side and purchased a Corolla instead. It was a clear “no confidence” vote in the future of gas prices, not to mention the off chance that someone in D.C. might actually decide that Wall Street oil speculation is bad for America. The Corolla is utilitarian bland … and it makes 40 mpg. A person can stand a whole lot of utilitarian bland at 40 mpg.

During the purchasing process, I noticed a few things: Credit is easier to obtain, depending on who you seek it from. And if you’ve got big bucks, the “heavy metal” will be very easy to obtain. Nothing but big pickups, giant SUVs, Jeeps, etc. on most of the lots in the area.

Sadly, dealers were in a mood as bland as the Corolla. None of my beloved high pressure “what is it going to take to put you in this unit today?” stuff, the usual trigger for my contrarian nature and a huge argument. I yearn for those good old days of yore.

Nonetheless, it can only be good economic news for car sales to be on the rise, given that many of them now pack roughly the same price as an entry-level house.

How will the Supreme Court tilt on Affordable Health Care?

Here’s a curiously pessimistic look at how the Supreme Court will land on President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act from the conservative Washington Times.

Arguments in the case begin this week.

European nations considering attack on oil prices

According to Bloomberg this morning, several European nations are considering what President Obama is hesitant to do: Tap into reserves to try to force down the per-gallon price of gasoline.

Meanwhile, we’re hearing tales that some local restaurants are beginning to see business slow as gas approaches $4 a gallon here.

I wonder if the president will be surprised when the economic recovery slows or stops in the wake of speculation-fueled oil price hikes.

Not so fast, Mr. President

Ah, oil prices.

It’s a subject shrouded in more baloney than a cheap grocery store sandwich. Here’s a HuffPo article that locates the lunchmeat nicely on the oil sub sandwich that President Obama has been feeding Americans – as his approval numbers plummet due to high gas prices.

I recall fondly the days on this blog when the Worldwide Businessplex had blog readers seriously – and in some cases, angrily – contending that the prices were merely the result of supply and demand. You know, the free market at work.

Not surprisingly, with supplies up and demand down, the only noise coming these days from the free market supply and demand folks is crickets.

 

A whopper of a resignation

For those of you who missed it, here’s Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith’s good-bye to the firm that employed him for 12 years.

 

Honestly, it’s a good time to buy a house

The true believers among Wichita housing brokers will always say it’s a good time to buy a house.

Today, they’re right, according to the National Association of Realtors.

With home prices sagging nationwide and more buyers coming into the market, this is one time when it truly is a good time to buy a house.

Bring back the old J.C. Penney’s

WICHITA – Took a little time Sunday afternoon to wander through JCP – you know, the retailer formerly known as J.C. Penney – in Towne West Square. It was my first trip since the company’s new CEO, former Apple wunderkind Ron Johnson, opined publicly that the retailer’s customers were “tired of all those sales offers,” a true warning shot that sounded an awful lot like an “uh-oh” to a now-former Penney’s regular like myself.

I used to frequent the store. Good clothing and the best prices in the market, along with friendly, knowledgeable clerks.

So much for all that.

Here’s the short tale for those of you who haven’t been to JCP: Prices are universally about 20 percent higher. Not a sale to be found, and about half the customers of a normal Sunday to boot. The store’s staff has also been cut in about half, and those who remain have been turned into shrinkage hawks, roaming the store demanding that shoppers account for that pair of pants they held in their hands five minutes ago.

In short, in at least one store the Apple genius has re-created Sears, and we all know how that one’s working out. Worse, there’s no cool whiz-bang electronic gadget with a fruit logo to be found to save the day, just the same Nike shirts that used to be $45 and are now selling for $60.