The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 44 - July 23, 2008


Group calls for earlier bridge closure

HOLMES BEACH – A group of business owners, elected officials and Chamber of Commerce representatives met last week to discuss moving the beginning of the 45-day bridge closure up four weeks, but they were warned that the request most likely came too late.

The Anna Maria Island Bridge closure comes during a $9.1 million rehabilitation project by Quinn Construction, Inc. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) originally wanted to close the bridge for 75 days during April, May and June, but changed it in December 2007 because of massive resistance from the business community on the Island. A majority of them said the closure would cut access to the Island during a traditionally busy period.

Quinn cut the closure to 45 days and moved it to Sept. 29, when many business owners said business is traditionally slowest.

During last week’s meeting, Audrey Clarke, public information officer for PB Americas, Inc., the construction manager, said she would take their requests to FDOT.

"It’s a lot of coordination with other agencies," she said. "I would like to hear what the businesses have to say."

"Our worst month by far is January, but there’s nothing we can do about it," said Dee Schaeffer, concessionaire for the Café on the Beach. "Our next worst month is September and the next after that, it’s October."

"Everyone thought that the closure would be done from early September through half of October," said Waterfront restaurant owner Jason Suzor.

Hurricane Hank’s owner Margaret Hoffman said she also thought the closure would start around the first of September.

"August and September are our slowest months, " said Rotten Ralph’s owner Dave Russell. "To have the bridge close after those two months would be too much for us."

Ed Kern, of Island Vacation Properties, said that business starts to pick up in October.

"October starts to become a busy part of the year, especially for Europeans," he said.

"September is flat," said Lois Gift, manager of Whitney Bank. "We’ve had customers tell us that they won’t be coming back until the bridge project is done."

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Brockman said that having the bridge closure stretch into late October would be too much for businesses. Gail Loghgren, head of the Longboat Key, Lido Key and St. Armands Chamber, agreed.

"A lot of our businesses close in September so when they reopen in October, they need a quick influx of cash," she said.

Ed Chiles, owner of three restaurants on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, was out of the state but he sent a letter saying the closure would better serve everyone if it started just after Labor Day, which is Sept. 1.

Clarke told the businesses to e-mail requests to her so she could forward them to FDOT.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story
Investment Corner

Stock market volatility surprising many

We are hearing a common theme from investors recently and there is no doubt that recent stock market volatility has many surprised and troubled. But is the current condition abnormal, or was what we experienced in the 2003 to 2006 time period just abnormally "quiet" making the recent market ups and downs seem extreme?

A recent report from Crestmont Research ( a money management and market research firm located in Oregon, reveals that the answer is probably a bit of both. The very low volatility environment that existed from 2003 to 2006 was among the lowest measured in the last 50 years, and in duration was one of the longer low volatility periods ever recorded. Quite abruptly, things changed in the last half of 2007, getting the attention of investors who tend to have an aversion to wild swings in the market.

However, we can’t really say that we are setting volatility records just yet, despite the rude awakening we have received. One way to assess this issue is to examine the number of days each month where the stock market closed up or down more than 1 percent from the previous day’s close. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 12,000, the index would have to go up or down more than 120 points to be a 1 percent change.

The last six months have averaged about eight trading days (the average month has 21 trading days) with greater than a 1 percent rise or drop. This is not unprecedented, and higher-six month average figures were recorded in 1974 (11), 1987 (10), 2000 (10), and 2002 (12).

So, while we are well above the long-term average of four 1 percent change days which has existed since 1951 (source: Crestmont Research Report: Volatility in Perspective - June 30th, 2008), we are not in uncharted territory.

Another way to measure volatility is to track the average daily range of the market from the high point of the days trading to the low to see how wide the peaks and valleys of trading were from top to bottom in percentage terms. The Crestmont report referenced data for this study back to 1962 and showed the three-month average of daily ranges to be 1.4 percent for the typical trading day.

The highest the three-month average of daily trading ranges rose to during the recent eight month market correction was about 2.1 percent. I find this interesting because there have been quite a few times when the average daily trading range went above 2.5 percent (1970, 1973, 1980, 1998 and 2002). In 1974 and 1987 the average daily range measurement described here was over 3 percent!

Do you feel better yet? I suspect not. What we should feel better about is the following observation from the report. In general, measures of market volatility, wild gyrations or whatever term you prefer to use tends to be higher during declining markets, and this time is no exception to that rule. Rising markets tend to exhibit lower volatility. Being the eternal optimist I am, I would also like to point out that in most cases where the volatility measures described above reached the levels where we are today, it proved to be a good buying opportunity for the patient investor. These figures presented above are in no way an exact timing tool to try to decide when the right time to buy or sell is at hand. Rather, when looking out over the next few years of your investment plan, they can help instill the patience required for long-term success.

Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing.

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