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New foreclosure filings decline, but unemployment is wildcard

Milwaukee (AP) — New foreclosure filings in Wisconsin dropped 5 percent in April compared to the prior month.

But economic observers say the decline isn’t worth celebrating just yet. With subprime mortgages already in the foreclosure process, job losses could lead to additional filings for those with standard mortgages.

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater economics professor Russell Kashian has been monitoring state foreclosures. He said the real number to watch is the national unemployment figure due out from the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday.

Kashian said if another 600,000 jobs are lost, foreclosures will follow. If that number is below 500,000, Kashian said better times are ahead.

There were 2,540 new foreclosure filings statewide in April, compared with 2,680 in March.

Chrysler workers upset after losing jobs to foreign production

Kenosha (AP) — Chrysler employees answered with a chorus of boos when speakers described how the Kenosha engine plant will close but the automaker plans to keep its operations in Mexico running.

United Auto Workers members at a rally Monday blasted the company’s decision to shut down Kenosha’s engine plant by the end of 2010.

Union leaders pledged to keep working with Chrysler on ways to keep the plant operating.

Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser said he joined Gov. Jim Doyle and other elected officials in signing a letter to President Obama urging that Chrysler amend its bankruptcy reorganization plan to keep the Kenosha plant.

The letter said taxpayers understand the need to make a $12 billion loan to Chrysler, but workers won’t understand losing their jobs to a foreign plant.

Last whooping crane pair in state abandons nest

Milwaukee (AP) — Researchers hoping to see reintroduced whooping cranes successfully nest in the wild instead have seen all 12 active nests in north central Wisconsin abandoned this spring.

The 12th pair of the endangered birds left their nest Sunday, but a biologist monitoring it retrieved two eggs to be incubated in hopes of hatching them.

Joan Garland, who is outreach coordinator with the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, said the failed nests are a setback, but there is still time for the birds to re-nest.

The foundation is one of the many partners in a coalition working to create a second migratory flock of whooping cranes in North America.

A major goal of the project this year is to study nesting failures.

Garland said the research is looking at various possible causes, including crane behavior, temperature variations, disturbance by black flies and food availability.

AK Steel lowers second-quarter outlook after car makers cut production

West Chester, OH (AP) — Production cuts by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC will leave AK Steel Holding Corp. with a larger-than-expected second-quarter loss, the steel maker said Tuesday.

The car makers’ production cuts will lower AK Steel’s second-quarter steel shipments to about 725,000 from 800,000 tons, resulting in an operating loss of $75 million to $80 million.

AK Steel had previously estimated a second-quarter loss of $50 million. Analysts had expected a loss of $39.2 million, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

In the first quarter, the company reported an operating loss of $99.9 million.

The company also said it expects its average per-ton selling price for steel to fall 3 to 4 percent in the second-quarter from the first quarter.

Siemens AG plans wind turbine production plant in Kansas

Frankfurt (AP) — German conglomerate Siemens AG said Tuesday it will build a wind turbine production plant in Kansas, expanding its presence in the U.S. and employing 400 workers.

The Munich-based company’s renewable energy unit said it plans to start construction of the 30,000-square foot facility in Hutchinson by August, with production to start later next year.

The nacelle production plant will average 650 units a year when production gets under way.

The 90-ton nacelle is mounted on top of a tower and supports the rotors of the wind turbine. It houses components for electric power generation, including the gearbox, the drive train and control electronics.
Siemens wind power business employs more than 5,500 workers and has operations in Denmark and Colorado.

Austrian carpenter sets world record for building coffins

Salzburg, Austria (AP) — An Austrian carpenter has found a macabre way of getting into the Guinness Book of Records: Over a 30-year career, he has built 707,335 coffins.

Officials in Austria’s Salzburg province say Herbert Weber has been honored for constructing more caskets than any other known carpenter.

Weber started making coffins in May 1978 at Moser Holzindustrie, a woodworking company in Bischofshofen.

Officials said Tuesday they plan to present the 50-year-old carpenter with a certificate from London-based Guinness World Records Ltd.

They’ve chosen a fitting backdrop: Weber will be feted at the International Funeral Home and Cemetery Trade Fair, which opens Saturday in Salzburg.

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