Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Oil-related bankruptcies continue to pile up

H&M will open in the former Barnes & Noble space in downtown Fort Worth on April 7.
H&M will open in the former Barnes & Noble space in downtown Fort Worth on April 7. Star-Telegram

While it’s a good sign that the price of oil is going up — it topped $40 a barrel for the first time since December — the tough times in the energy sector are far from over.

Unemployment and bankruptcies are on the rise in energy-dependent areas of Texas, according to a report released Friday by the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas.

Business bankruptcies rose 18.8 percent in the oil-heavy Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land metropolitan area, for example, even as they declined in other sections of the state, according to the latest Regional Economic Update from the Dallas Fed.

A quick review by the Star-Telegram of bankruptcies filed in Fort Worth shows that during March 1-14 at least 15 energy-related companies filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. Many of them appear to be oilfield service-related, including GreenHunter Resources and a number of its subsidaries, Universal Well Service Holdings and Wellflex Energy Solutions. Overall, the number of business bankruptcies in Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas declined.

“Although it’s unclear how many of the business bankruptcies were from the oil and gas sector, the tight link between energy dependence and the growth rate in bankruptcies points to increased financial stress from the energy contraction,” according to the report written by Fed Senior Research Economist Anil Kumar and Research Analyst Emily Guitierrez.

The top oil-producing areas also saw larger increases in unemployment. The top 10 percent of Texas counties in terms of oil production saw nearly a 1.4 percent increase in unemployment from 2014 to 2015. The increase comes as the unemployment rate for the entire state fell one-tenth of a percent to 4.5 percent, the Fed report stated.

H&M Sundance Square opening earlier

Fashion retailer H&M has moved up the opening of its store in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth by a week.

The 30,000-square-foot store is now scheduled to open at noon on Thursday, April 7. The date was moved up because construction is wrapping up faster than expected, a Sundance Square spokeswoman said.

The location, in the former Barnes & Noble bookstore space at the corner of Commerce and Third streets, will be H&M’s third Tarrant County store and the largest. It will have four floors.

H&M already has stores at Grapevine Mills and Ridgmar mall, and announced plans earlier this month to open in the fall at Hulen Mall. With the Sundance and Hulen locations, the Swedish clothing retailer will have 10 stores in Dallas-Fort Worth.

In other Sundance Square updates, It’Sugar, a specialty candy and gift store, will open on Thursday at 503 Main St., next to Mi Cocina and Barse Jewelry.

And four days later, Yolk restaurant will open March 28. The restaurant is on Main Street, between Haltom’s Jewelers and Mercury Chop House. The 5,100-square-foot restaurant will offer patio dining. Sandra Baker

Area home prices among U.S. leaders

We know that Fort Worth’s housing market has been hot recently, and here is more confirmation that it’s one of the hottest in the country., which provides information on mortgages and consumer loans, listed Fort Worth among the 10 metro area in the U.S. that have recovered the most value after the housing crisis that brought on the Great Recession.

According to its data, based on the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, prices in the Fort Worth-Arlington metro area were 27.6 percent above their pre-recession peak in the fourth quarter, the sixth-best in the country.

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood topped the list, with prices 45.3 percent above peak value. Austin-Round Rock ranked No. 2, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land was third and Dallas-Plano-Irving ranked fifth at 35.6 percent.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko