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Senate Confirms Deputy Treasury Secretary

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Sarah Bloom Raskin as deputy secretary of the Treasury. In a statement, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he is pleased the Senate showed broad support in confirming Raskin, adding, "The Treasury Department is gaining a proven and experienced leader who is dedicated to promoting economic prosperity, and enhancing business and consumer confidence."

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Consumer Expectations Stay Steady in February

According to responses in the New York Fed's most recent Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE), consumers last month indicated a median home price change expectation of 4.0 percent, reversing an increase to 4.6 percent in January. Price change expectations hovered around 4.5 percent for much of last year's second half, coming down only when national reports indicated a slowdown.

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Rate Rise Brings Mortgage Apps Down

An uptick in interest rates brought early March mortgage applications down, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported. MBA's Market Composite Index, a weekly released measure of mortgage loan application volume, fell 2.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending March 7. On an unadjusted basis, the index dropped 1 percent.

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Fifth Third Exiting Wholesale Space

In a letter issued to brokers Monday, Fifth Third Mortgage president Bob Lewis revealed the bank is exiting the wholesale business to focus third-party origination on correspondent lending. “While this was an extremely difficult decision to make, we intend to build on our leadership position in the correspondent market and remain committed to purchasing loans from smaller financial institutions and independent mortgage companies,” Lewis said in the letter.

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Young Buyers Step Up Market Presence Despite Challenges

According to the National Association of Realtors' Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study for 2014, Millennials—aka “Generation Y” or “Generation Next”—comprised 31 percent of recent purchases, leading all other age groups. Following that were Generation X (defined as those born between 1965 and 1979), which made up 30 percent.

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Senate Banking Leaders Unveil Proposal for Housing Finance Reform

The leaders of the Senate Banking Committee announced Tuesday plans to move forward on a new proposal to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in favor of a new government backstop for private financiers. According to committee chairman Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) and ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the newly unveiled reform proposal is the result of months of exploratory hearings and negotiations.

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Credit Availability Up in February

The Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Mortgage Credit Availability Index, a measure of borrower eligibility and underwriting criteria from more than 85 lenders, moved up half a percentage point to 113.5 last month, building on an increase of two points recorded in January. Once again, the expansion in credit offerings in February was the result of offsetting factors, said MBA chief economist Mike Fratantoni.

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