Friday, May 13, 2011

Greenville's Swamp Rabbit Trail by Southern Living

Tour the South's Bike Trails Get a new perspective on the South from some of the best bike trails. From beginner to expert trails, there's one out there for everyone.
New Orleans Birmingham Greenville Find Your Ride Greenville's Swamp Rabbit Trail This flat trail along a former rail line is the perfect spot for a leisurely ride with the family.ShareThis | Print | Email | Add Comment | Read All Comments (3)Text size:AAA

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is the ideal bike trail for beginner bikers or families.

Photo: Chris M. Rogers

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More Rails to Trails

Missouri's Katy Trail
This trail runs 225 miles along the Missouri River through the small towns of the Show-Me State's wine county. Virginia Creeper Trail
Located in Southwest Virginia, this trail is ideal for family cruisers, most of whom coast a 17-mile downhill from Whitetop Mountain to the tiny town of Damascus.
The Ride
A former rail line, this 13.5-mile South Carolina trail is blissfully flat and traffic-free, connecting Greenville to Travelers Rest along a scenic stretch of the Reedy River. Roll beneath Liberty Bridge in Greenville’s Falls Park, adjacent to dramatic waterfalls. At the midpoint, a connector path meanders around Furman Lake.

Your Guide
You. (It’s hard to get lost.) You can hitch a ride back on one of Greenville’s buses, equipped with bike racks to offer “shuttles” to and from Travelers Rest. For more info on the trail, visit Greenville Rec.

You'll Love It If...
You’ve got kids or hate traffic. It’s straight, hill-free, and closed to cars.

Gear Up
Reedy Rides will deliver a bicycle to you, with a helmet, bag, and lock.

Kim Cross and Graham Averill|From the May 2011 Magazine Issue Add Comment | Read All Comments (3)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Market Snapshot by Sigma Research - Thursday's Report

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Three data points at 8:30 this morning; weekly jobless claims were expected to have declined 50K last week, as reported claims were down 44K after increasing 43K the previous week. Continuing claims 3.756 mil frm 3.751; the 4 wk average of claims 436K from 432K the previous week. April retail sales were reported up 0.5% overall, when auto ales are taken out sales were up 0.6%; about in line with estimates. April producer price index hit a little hot, up 0.8% overall, excluding food and energy up 0.3%; both were a little higher than forecasts. Yr/yr overall PPI +6.8%, ex food and energy +2.1%.

The 8:30 data taken well by all markets initially; the bond and mortgage markets were fractionally better prior to 8:30 and showed no movement on the data but we are somewhat concerned about how the bond market will take the increases in the PPI data. The increase, although minor, won't likely sit well for rate markets. With interest rates at these low levels any sniff that inflation may increase, whether real or imagined, will hinder bond markets.

The stock market supporting rate markets this morning with the indexes trading weaker prior to the 9:30 open. At 9:00 the DJIA -42, the 10 yr note about unchanged from yesterday's auction when a new 10 yr note was issued. Mortgage prices at 9:00 +.03 bp. At 9:30 the DJIA opened -23, the 10 yr note rate at 3.19% up frm 3.16% on the old 10 yr yesterday but -2 bp frm the auction yesterday; mortgage prices -.06 bp.

At 10:00 March business inventories expected up 0.9%, were up 1.0%, sales up 2.2%, Feb revised from +0.2% to +0.5%. The inventory to sales ratio a record low at 1.23 months from 1.24 months in Feb. No reaction.

Crude oil and gold, along with most other commodities continue to fall as the commodity trade that pushed most every commodity higher and to excess is ending with huge declines. Crude oil on Monday climbed back up to $103.50, at 9:00 this morning trading at $97.00. Yesterday gasoline futures came under heavy selling pressure pushing prices to limit down in the futures markets.

The Senate Banking Committee is starting hearings today on the Dodd Frank bill that in our view was Congress running amok. Bernanke along with FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, SEC Chair Mary Schapiro, CFTC Chair Gary Gensler, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin. There had to be some legislation to rein in the large banks that clearly demonstrated they have little self control and really demonstrated in the sub prime catastrophe that management of these huge banks didn't have a clue about what was happening in their banks. Most of the other stuff in the Dodd Frank bill was mostly unnecessary in its detail and complexity. Bernanke is expected to support the bill, many Republicans want the bill tossed into the trash.

At 1:00 Treasury will auction $16B of 30 yr bonds, it will be a new issue of 30s. Yesterday the 10 yr auction met with good demand; today's auction will also likely see firm demand according to traders we talk with. If however the 30 doesn't meet expectations rates will likely come under additional pressure. The 10 yr note still cannot clear 3.14%, the yield level achieved in early March before running up to 3.60%. Technically the bond and mortgage markets are still in overbought conditions; as noted yesterday, the longer the 10 yr fails to break resistance the more likelihood rates will notch up a little. Logic being, why continue to hold the 10 yr if this is the best the market can do; there is always hot money in the bond markets (trading on short term outlooks), that money moves quickly when the markets seems to run out of momentum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Market Snapshot by Sigma Research - Wednesday's Report

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Yesterday ended 8 straight days of improvement in the bond and mortgage markets, the 10 yr yield increased 5 bp and mortgages up 4 bp. This morning in early trading the 10 down 2/32 at 9:00 and mortgage prices down 3/32 (.09 bp). The 10 yr note driver for mortgages hit 3.14% the level hit in March and failed to break through for three days, the FNMA 4.0 coupon tested but couldn't break its 200 day moving average. Technical momentum oscillators have been in very overbought levels for 4 days. Unlikely the bullish longer term outlook will change but traders will be cautious here and prices may fall further.

At 8:30 the March international trade deficit was $48.18B, Feb deficit was $45.4B. The deficit was in line with forecasts and estimates, no reaction to it. High oil prices in March drove imports up eclipsing exports. Crude oil costs that surged above $100 a barrel for the first time in more than a year and a 9.4% drop in the dollar will probably keep driving up the cost of imports. The weaker dollar however will continue to support exports to emerging markets, China and India.

Mortgage applications increased 8.2% from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 6, 2011 on lower interest rates. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 8.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. The Refinance Index increased 9.0% from the previous week, and is at its highest level since the week ending March 18, 2011. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 6.7% from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 7.1% compared with the previous week and was 25.8% lower than the same week one year ago. The four week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is up 2.9%. The four week moving average is up 0.4% for the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, while this average is up 4.3% for the Refinance Index. The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 63.1% of total applications from 62.7% the previous week. The refinance share is at its highest level since the week ending March 25, 2011. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 6.5% from 6.7% of total applications from the previous week. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.67% from 4.76%, with points increasing to 1.10 from 0.75 (including the origination fee) for 80% loans. The 30-year rate is at its lowest since December 2010. The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.81% from 3.96%, with points increasing to 1.05 from 0.82 (including the origination fee) for 80% loans. The 15-year rate is at its lowest since November 2010.

At 9:30 the DJIA opened down 46 points pulling the 10 yr note back to unchanged and mortgages just .03 bp lower from yesterday's close. With equity markets starting weaker and the dollar stronger mortgages and treasuries have gotten a boost from earlier lower prices, but with the 10 yr auction this afternoon the rate markets will likely sit still this morning.

At 1:00 pm Treasury will auction $24B of 10 yr notes, the demand will be critical to hold rates at these levels. In the meantime we don't look fro any market improvements into the auction, this afternoon after 1:00 look for increased trade on auction results.

At 2:00 this afternoon Treasury will report the April budget data, estimates are for a monthly deficit of $60.0B.

The dollar is stronger against the euro this morning. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said that inflation remains “uncomfortably high,” and officials signaled they may need to raise interest rates later this year even as the economy struggles to build momentum. Inflation across the world is persisting, putting pressure on central banks to withdraw stimulus and raise interest rates. In China, inflation held above 5 percent in April and lending exceeded analysts’ estimates, according to reports today. Germany’s rate jumped to 2.7 percent, more than initially estimated, separate data released today showed.

Crude oil rallied yesterday, this morning down $1.79 at 9:45; choppy as markets continue to assess demand against supply. Higher margin costs have eliminated some speculators that do not have deep pockets; volatility increase also keeps specs from aggressive trading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Picture-perfect Greenville, S.C. By Becky Krystal The Washington Post

Picture-perfect Greenville, S.C.
By Becky Krystal
The Washington Post
Posted: 05/07/2011 06:17:02 PM MDTUpdated: 05/07/2011 06:17:27 PM MDT

Old and new buildings line the Reedy River in downtown Greenville, S.C., which has been revitalized since the 1970s. (Becky Krystal, The Washington Post)I take a lot of photos when I travel. My digital camera can capture hundreds on each trip. But the most indelible images from my recent visit to Greenville, S.C., are the ones impressed on my mind's eye.

Picture-perfect vignettes seemed to compose themselves before me everywhere I looked: a young woman playfully waltzing in the fading afternoon sun inside an old riverside factory. Three tykes in matching pastel green outfits posing for the camera in a garden. Two chess players ensconced in the catacomb-like coolness beneath a bridge. A solitary writer perched on a cliff overlooking the river.

This area of the South Carolina upcountry had already worked its magic on me about a year earlier when I visited nearby Spartanburg. But Greenville, I learned, hadn't always been so picturesque.

"We used to always be told never to go downtown," said artist Patti Rishforth, a Greenville native whom I found in her silhoutte and portrait studio on the ground level of a mixed-use development along the Reedy River. "It's changed like night and day."

Downtown flourished after World War I, according to a memorial on North Main Street honoring former mayor Max Heller. But it began to decline in the 1950s and '60s with the growth of suburban shopping centers. In the 1970s, Heller and the city made revitalizing downtown a priority, and their efforts paid off. Today, the tree-lined heart of town boasts restaurants, boutiques and plazas ideal for whiling away a sunny afternoon.

Still, even as recently as a decade ago, Rishforth said, the southern end of downtown, near the Reedy, was less than charming. She recalled cutting through abandoned lots to have picnics with her young son by the river. Now, the area is a popular park, completing the flow of pedestrian-friendly attractions.

"It's got that European feel to it," said Diane Ludwig, who relocated from Charleston three years ago to open the dog-centric Barkery Bistro with her daughter. Such quirky, upscale storefronts are common along North and South Main Street, including one urging passers-by to "get your 'chi' moving."

I wasn't sure about my chi's mobility, but I knew that I wanted to give the rest of my body a workout on the Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail, a nearly 14-mile walking and biking path that runs north from Greenville to the city of Travelers Rest.

Riverside ride

On my first morning in town, local outfitter Reedy Rides delivered a spiffy white bike to my hotel, the Westin Poinsett. The city is about five years into its "Bikeville" initiative, a push to become a bicycle- friendly community, and so far, the Swamp Rabbit is the most prominent result of that effort. With so much enthusiasm surrounding the trail, I worried that my leisurely ride might turn into a two-wheeled game of Frogger. But although more people were out than I'd expect on a weekday morning, I wasn't overwhelmed. In fact, my only near-collisions were with one scampering lizard and a few dangling inchworms.

The trail runs along the Reedy, which provides a soothing soundtrack of gurgling water, at least in the spots where traffic and railroad noise don't drown it out. Similarly, the scents emanating from the abundant greenery are occasionally lost among the fertilizer-like odors that permeate the air near a number of chemical plants not far from downtown. Farther north, as the trail approaches Furman University, the landscape takes a turn for the residential.

The Furman campus is new relative to the school's age; the university relocated to the current site in 1958 after about 100 years downtown. Boasting a lake ringed by its own biking and walking trail, the campus is a perfect scenic detour for riders on the Swamp Rabbit trail. And the students seem to be big into two-wheeling it, too.

I found plenty of reasons to hop off my bike and explore several campus attractions on foot, including a replica of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond, a vegetable garden, a Japanese temple and the university's iconic Italian- style belltower.

After an hour or so of pretending to be a college student again, I continued north to the aptly named Travelers Rest for lunch at the Cafe @ Williams Hardware. The restaurant, which backs up to the trail, has become a designated place for cyclists to chain up their bikes and have a good meal.

Back in Greenville that afternoon, an excursion to the city zoo took me through the heart of Falls Park on the Reedy, where the river tumbles over large rocks in gauzy patterns. On this busy spring day, I narrowly avoided so many strollers and dog-walkers that about halfway through the park, I gave up and pushed my bike out of the throngs.

Having surrendered my wheels, I returned to the park that evening to explore the area further on foot. A focal point is the Liberty Bridge, a futuristic-looking structure that, hello, bobs underfoot with every step. As the sun set, my attention turned to North and South Main Street, strung with twinkly lights. At 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, the thoroughfare was bustling.

Continuing my car-less adventure the next day (I used my rental only to get between the city and the airport), I walked to the free Greenville County Museum of Art and then to Art Crossing, a series of studios where I met Rishforth and watercolor artist Ron Gillen. In addition to being a hot spot for restaurants and cycling, the region is apparently an artists haven. More than 140 participated in an open-studio event last fall.

Rishforth and Gillen both thrive on meeting visitors. What I'd intended as a few minutes' chat quickly turned into a nearly hour-long conversation when Gillen, an amateur historian of Greenville, began to regale me with the story of the city's evolution over the years. He was practically gleeful as he pulled out his watercolor depictions of the demolished old train station and explained his history-detective efforts to reproduce the architect's original plans for it.

I finally had to leave, but it was hard to pull myself away — from his narrative, and from this equally engrossing city.


Greenville, S.C., Insider's Guide
STAY: The Westin Poinsett, 120 S. Main St., 864-421-9700, Elegant historic hotel built in 1925. Rooms from $199.

DINE: Cafe @ Williams Hardware, 13 S. Main St., Travelers Rest, 864-834-7888, An ideal spot for cyclists in need of a meal. Lunch sandwiches from $5.50.

The Lazy Goat, 170 Riverplace, 864-679-5299, Impressive Mediterranean-themed food on the water. Dinner plates from $5.

Luna Rosa Gelato Cafe, 9 W. Washington St., 864-241-4040, Sample any or all of the flavors. Single scoop $3.95.

PLAY: Reedy Rides, 864-419-2944, Will deliver bicycles within a 3-mile radius of downtown. Four hours $15, eight hours $25, two days $45.

Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail, 864-288-6470, About 14 miles from Greenville to Travelers Rest.

Art Crossing, 100 and 200 Riverplace, Studios open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Greenville County Museum of Art, 420 College St., 864-271-7570, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Free.

Greenville Zoo, 150 Cleveland Park Drive, 864-467-4300, Daily 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adults $7.75, children 3-15 $4.50.

Kilgore-Lewis House, 560 N. Academy St., 864-232-3020, Gardens surrounding a historic house. Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free.


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Market Snapshot by Sigma Research - Tuesday's Report

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Treasuries and mortgages continue to hold gains but fractionally lower early this morning; no selling just no buying ahead of today's $32B 3 yr note auction at 1:00. At 8:30 April import prices were reported up 2.2% and +11.1% yr/yr, export prices +1.1%; no noticeable reaction to the data. Earlier this morning the NFIB reported small business optimism declined again, at 91.2 in April frm 91.9 in March and the lowest reading since last October. The survey indicated small business owners concerned over inflation and the weakening economy; again no noticeable reaction.

At 9:30 the DJIA opened +23, the 10 yr note -4/32 at 3.17% +1 bp and mortgage prices -1/32 (.06 bp). Not much that can move markets today, similar to yesterday. Technically overbought bond and mortgage markets but the outlook is so bullish that traders see little reason so far to take profits. One factor we are watching, increasing margin rates for all commodities that are making it more expensive to participate in gold, silver, crude and others, pushing traders and investors out and into treasuries that are widely believed to move lower in rates. This morning the NYMEX announced crude oil margins will increase 25% at the end of the day today.

Republican congressional leaders are ruling out tax increases or a wider revenue base in talks on extending the U.S. government’s borrowing authority, creating a conflict with Democrats who would raise more money as well as cut spending. House speaker Boehner predicted that Congress would act on a broader revision of the tax code in the next two years, though he said that Republicans wouldn’t support it “as a way of increasing taxes on the American people or enterprises.” Boehner said that “without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase.” Spending cuts “should be greater” than the amount of the “increase in debt authority” given to President Barack Obama, he said.
The ECB is working on another loan plan for Greece. Another loan package will buy time for Greece and the potential for a default will be pushed back, still no assurance that Greece will make in through; there is a meeting of the ECB coming on Monday to work out the plan. The International Monetary Fund also is arranging new aid for Greece, an 80 billion-euro ($115B) to 100 billion-euro plan. Greece’s money managers are warning of damage to an already crippled economy should European leaders move to restructure the country’s debt.
At 10:00 another data point that will go with little notice; March wholesale inventories, expected up 1.0%, were up 1.1%.
At 1:00 Treasury begins its quarterly refunding with $32B of 3 yr notes, given the strength in the rate markets the auction should see good demand. Tomorrow it is $24B of 10 yr notes that could be a problem; if however the auction is well bid the 10 will likely resume its rate decline and push mortgage rates lower with it. Recent activity in the MBS markets has been a little better than treasuries with good demand for FHA paper.
Crude oil is lower today after running up almost to recent highs at $114.00+; this morning with margin rates going up at the end of the session crude is down $0.57.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Market Snapshot by Sigma Research - Monday's Report

Monday, May 09, 2011
Treasuries and mortgages opened soft early this morning but by 9:00 were recovering with only minor price declines. No scheduled data today; most attention focused on the dollar and continuing concerns over Greece's debt. There was no additional news from the ECB or Greece over the weekend however. Last week the euro fell the most in a week since back in 2008 with concerns Greece would not be able to survive in the EU, this morning the dollar is slightly weaker against the currency. A weakening dollar continues to support US bond markets.

Crude oil fell almost $17.00, gold dropped $65.00, all commodities declined last week as most of the markets had become way to frothy leading the exchanges to increase margin rates. This morning crude started up over $2.00 but since has backed of a little, volatility in crude should be expected this week, the same with gold and silver and the rate markets. The economic outlook is being adjusted lower taking any concerns about inflation off the table. Some pundits beginning to talk about anther easing move from the Fed as the economic outlook deteriorated last week. Although the April employment report headlines were much better than thought (non-farm private jobs up 268K), markets generally ignored it; Friday no change in rates and only an anemic close for equity markets.

Treasury will conduct its quarterly refunding beginning tomorrow, auctioning $72B of 3 yr, 10 yr and 30 yr notes and bonds. We expect good demand for all three auctions with global economic outlooks softening and inflation fears that come and go are now less threatening.

This Week's Economic Calendar:
8:30 am April export and import prices (N/A)
10:00 am Mar wholesale inventories (+1.0%)
1:00 pm $32B 3 yr note auction
7:00 am Weekly MBA mortgage applications
8:30 am Mar Trade balance (-$47.7B)
1:00 pm $24B 10 yr note auction
8:30 am weekly jobless claims (-51K to 423K; con't claims 3.70 mil frm 3.733 mil last week)
April PPI (+0.5%; ex food and energy +0.2%)
April retail sales (+0.6%; ex auto sales +0.5%)
10:00 am Mar business inventories (+0.9%)
1:00 pm $16B 30 yr bond auction
8:30 am April CPI (+0.4%, ex food and energy +0.1%)
9:55 am U. of Michigan consumer sentiment index (69.5 frm 69.8)

The DJIA opened at 9:30 +14, mortgage prices -1/32 (.03 bp).

Technicals in the bond and mortgage markets remain overbought, possibly some pullback and consolidation here but the markets are quite bullish presently, as long as that continues not much retreat in the bond market. This week will likely be marked with increased market volatility.