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Mortgage Apps Down 3.5% on Soft Refinance Activity

A sharp drop in refinance application volume last week more than offset a pickup in purchase applications, resulting in a net loss, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported in its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey. MBA’s Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage application volume, dropped 3.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending March 21. The decline followed a revised 0.2 percent increase the week prior.

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Servicing, Political Leaders Meet to Tackle Today’s Challenges

Policymakers and servicing leaders gathered Tuesday at the Newseum in the nation’s capital for the fifth annual Five Star Government Forum, an all-day event created to foster honest and open dialogue about the servicing industry’s most pressing challenges. In case you missed it, we captured a few photos highlighting the day’s events and the lineup of speakers—including some of the most influential names in housing and servicing today.

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DeMarco Announces Plans to Leave FHFA

DeMarco

After serving the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for nearly six years, former acting director and current senior deputy director Edward DeMarco announced his intent to part ways with the agency at the end of April. DeMarco confirmed his departure plans in a letter directed to current agency director Mel Watt, saying, "I believe the time has come for me to seek other opportunities."

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Consumer Confidence Rebounds to Six-Year High

According to a release Tuesday, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index improved to 82.3 in the latest survey, up four points from February’s reading. It was the strongest index value since January 2008. “Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board.

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New Home Sales Retreat After January Surge

According to reports released Tuesday by the Census Bureau and HUD, new home sales in February ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000, down 3.3 percent from the revised January rate of 455,000 (originally recorded at 468,000). It was the weakest sales pace since September 2013. Compared to February 2013, last month’s sales rate was down by about 5,000 (1.1 percent).

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Price Growth Streak Continues in January

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, released Tuesday, showed a 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted month-over-month improvement in January, topping the 0.7 percent gain forecast in a poll of economist conducted by Reuters. On an unadjusted basis, the 20-city composite index posted its third monthly decline at -0.1 percent. The 10-city index ticked up a negligible amount, meanwhile.

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Nonprime Arena Gains Another Competitor

According to a company release, Carrington has lowered its minimum credit requirements to a FICO score of 550 and expanded its guidelines on certain loan programs under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), extending eligibility to more property types and reducing overlays.

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First Mortgage Debt Up to Highest Balance Since 2011

Debt

According to Equifax’s latest National Consumer Credit Trends Report, the total balance of first mortgages in February came up to $7.97 trillion, a 2.8 percent year-over-year increase and the highest balance since December 2011. “The decline in mortgage balances from accelerated amortization and foreclosure write-offs has finally been overcome by increases in mortgage debt due to home purchase lending,” said chief economist Amy Crews Cutts.

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