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First-Quarter Refinance Stats Point to Equity Build-Up

According to Freddie Mac's latest report, 39 percent of refinancers last quarter chose to shorten their term, up slightly over the prior quarter and the highest share since 1992. Meanwhile, the share of borrowers extracting home equity stayed relatively low. Together, the two stats suggest borrowers are seeking to strengthen their own equity positions as home values continue to rise, the company says.

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Fed to Cut Monthly Asset Purchases to $45B

Federal Reserve leaders concluded their April meeting on Wednesday, revealing they have again voted to scale back the Fed's monthly asset purchases. Beginning in May, the committee will add only $20 billion in mortgage-backed securities per month rather than the previous pace of $25 billion. Additionally, longer-term Treasury securities will be scaled back to $25 billion per month rather than $30 billion.

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Report: Loan Risk Remains High; QM Having ‘No Discernible Impact’

The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) International Center on Housing Risk released this week its latest National Mortgage Risk Index (NMRI), a measure of likely loan default rates in the event of another economic crisis. For its March data, the group calculated that under stress, 11.5 percent of recent home purchase mortgages would default, just down from 11.6 percent in February.

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What Recent Buyers Wish They Knew

In a survey of more than 800 recent homebuyers, Chase found approximately nine out of every 10 said that overall, they “felt prepared” when they purchased their home. Still, looking back, a combined 56 percent said they wish they were armed with more knowledge about making an offer and negotiating, the financing aspects of purchasing a house, and the actual details on closing the transaction.

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Home Price Increases Continue to Cool

Home prices as measured by S&P Dow Jones performed more or less as expected in February, with annual growth rates continuing to slow. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices shows prices among 20 of the nation’s biggest markets grew 0.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in February, matching January’s rate of growth. Unadjusted, the index was unchanged month-over-month.

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Pending Home Sales Crawl Up After Long Sleep

Following months of stagnancy, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) measure of pending home sales rose in March, the group reported. According to the latest release, NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) rose to 97.4 last month, up 3.4 percent from February’s upwardly revised 94.2. It was the first real pickup in the last nine months, the association said. NAR’s chief economist said the increase was expected with the end of last season’s severe weather.

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Economists: Banks Hold $2T in Excess Reserves; Are Eager to Lend

stress test

While strict lending standards may be precluding some from the housing market, one economist insists banks want to lend. It is lackluster employment and slow household formation among Millennials that is hindering the market now, according to Maury Harris, managing director and chief U.S. economist at UBS during a discussion hosted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “Banks have over $2 trillion of excess reserves,” Harris said. “Banks would like to put that money to work and increase lending, which would help the economy.”

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Six New Markets Rebound Fully in February

The number of markets around the nation that have seen home values recover fully rose by six in February, according to data from Homes.com. “February’s rebound progress illustrates how home prices in most markets across the country are appreciating, even in the depths of winter,” said Brock MacLean, EVP for Homes.com. “This is unusual given harsh weather conditions in most markets, but a positive sign as we enter peak season.”

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What Happened to the Spring Recovery?

Housing Spring Recovery 2014

In a report issued earlier this week, Fitch Ratings announced it is tapering its forecast for 2014 in acknowledgement of what has so far been a “subpar spring selling season.” Sales of both new and existing homes in March fell short of expectations, dashing optimistic projections of a rebound following the end of an unusually harsh winter. Housing starts also disappointed as homebuilders remain concerned about the shape of the market.

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Report Offers Second Opinion on March Home Sales

On Thursday, RealtyTrac released its Residential & Foreclosure Sales Report, which showed modest gains in U.S. residential sales in March. The firm reported that March showed a 0.4 percent uptick in overall transactions compared to February and a full 8 percent increase over sales in March 2013. RealtyTrac’s data clashes with other reports released this week about March sales.

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