Less Financial Distress; High Mortgage Debt; Maui’s $4 a Gallon; Thick Star Discs; eneloop Bike

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Hawaii Improves in Financial Distress Index


A measure of financial problems faced by Hawaii households has improved over the past year, though remains at a level that indicates a level of distress.

The CredAbility Consumer Distress Index shows Hawaii households scored a 67.84, or below the 70 score that indicates a non-distressed situation.  A year earlier Hawaii scored a 65.4.

The score takes into account employment, housing, household budgets and net worth for each state. Hawaii’s score was better than the fourth-quarter national average of 64.3 on a 100-point scale.

Michigan had the worst score at 58.83. North Dakota was best at 79.35.

Based on the index’s data, Mark Cole, CredAbility’s chief operating officer, said that a tale of two different American families is developing in America.

“The family with one or two stable jobs is seeing their investments grow again and is beginning to spend more of their household income,” he said.  “But families that have lost a job or seen other income sources reduced, and who don’t have enough income to invest, have experienced increased financial distress.

“Unfortunately, millions of families are in the second category. In 2010, approximately 14.8 million people ended the year unemployed, more than 1 million families lost homes to foreclosure and 43.6 million Americans used food stamps to buy groceries.”

Hawaii has Third-Highest Mortgage Debt per Borrower

Credit reporting bureau TransUnion found Hawaii home buyers carried the second-highest debt per borrower in the nation during the fourth quarter.

The firm reported the highest average mortgage debt per borrower continued to be the District of Columbia at $368,138 followed by California at $339,088 and Hawaii at $313,838.

The lowest average mortgage debt per borrower remained in West Virginia at $99,554.

TransUnion reported during the fourth quarter the national mortgage loan delinquency rate – the ratio of borrowers who are 60 or more days past due with their mortgage payments dropped to 6.41 percent.

The firm reported at the end of the third quarter Hawaii’s delinquency rate was 5.28 percent.

Maui Gasoline Costs more than $4 a Gallon

The price of a gallon of regular gasoline on Maui continues to be among the most expensive in the nation, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge website.

The database shows the price at $4.034 in Wailuku, or highest among the three metropolitan areas surveyed in Hawaii.

Maui’s fuel prices helped push up the statewide average, which is the most expensive of all states at $3.746 a gallon.

The statewide price compares to the $3.133 a gallon average nationally.

Hawaii also boasts the nation’s highest diesel fuel prices at $4.147 a gallon.

Credit: Robert Gendler

Keck Telescope Astronomers Identify Stellar Disc

A team of astronomers that included researchers from the U.S. Europe and Australia has identified for the first time a thick stellar disc in the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, according to the University of California at Los Angeles.

The team, using the Keck Telescope on the Big Island, analyzed the velocities of bright stars within the Andromeda galaxy and observe a group of stars tracing a thick disc that was distinct from those comprising the galaxy’s already known thin disc, UCLA reported.

The discovery will help astronomers better understand the processes involved in the formation and evolution of large spiral galaxies like ours, according to the team, which includes UCLA research astronomer Michael Rich and colleagues from Europe and Australia.

Sanyo Brings Hybrid Bicycle to Honolulu

Sanyo North America Corp. said its eneloop bike, a pedal-assist synergetic hybrid bicycle, is now available in Honolulu through bike rental shops.

The eneloop bike won the Best of Innovations Award at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in the Eco-Design & Sustainable Technology category and uses a combination of pedal- and battery-power to propel riders. The bike offers regenerative coasting and braking to recharge the battery.

Sanyo said it was collaborating with Assist the World of Green LLC to make the bikes available in the state.  Assist the World of Green is opening operations near the Waikiki Duty Free Shop mall, and by the end of March 2011, a second shop will be added in the Kailua.