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Market Slows as Buyers Become Pickier

The median days on market for homes sold in 20 metros tracked by Redfin rose to 41 in January, the company reported—five days longer than in December. At the same time, however, the share of listings under contract within two weeks jumped to a quarter. “That uptick indicates that determined buyers are still keen to quickly make offers on the most coveted listings,” said Redfin researcher Troy Martin.

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Originations Remain Subdued as Refinances Lose Steam

Origination numbers remained weak through the end of 2013, and the odds of a resurge in refinances boosting volumes don’t look great, either, according to Black Knight Financial Services (BKFS). “In January, we saw origination volume continue to decline to its lowest point since 2008, with prepayment speeds pointing to further drops in refinance-related originations,” said Herb Blecher, SVP of BKFS’ Data & Analytics division.

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New Year, New Drop in Business at Fannie

The new year didn’t bring any new trends in Fannie Mae’s Book of Business, which shrank at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in January. While business was down, delinquency rates, too, kept declining. According to the GSE, the single-family serious delinquency rate dropped 5 basis points to 2.33 percent in January, while the multifamily serious delinquency rate was flat at 0.10 percent.

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Consumer Sentiment Weathers February Chill

Days after the Conference Board recorded a downturn in consumer confidence, the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters put out their own index, which suggested just the opposite. Surveys of Consumers’ Index of Consumer Sentiment picked up to 81.6 in February, a 0.5 percent month-over-month improvement and a gain of 5.2 percent year-over-year.

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FHFA Appoints New Chair for Fannie’s Board

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced the appointment of Egbert L. J. Perry as chair of Fannie Mae’s board of directors. Perry will replace the outgoing Philip A. Laskawy, who will step down at the end of March.

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More Homeowners Plan to Rent over Selling

Think home inventory will see a big boost as owners gear up for the spring shopping season? Survey results from Redfin suggest otherwise. In a poll of more than 1,900 homebuyers across 22 major metro areas, the online broker found 39 percent of homeowners have plans to rent out their existing home after buying a new place—limiting the number of supply coming to the market.

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Home Finance Balances Up for Third Straight Month

Outstanding home finance balances increased for the third straight month in January, signaling what might be the start of a long-term resurgence in borrowing, Equifax reported in its most recent National Consumer Credit Trends release. “American consumers have shed more than $1.5 trillion in mortgage debt since the start of the financial crisis and only now seem interested in investing in housing again,” said Amy Crews Cutts, chief economist.

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January Construction Spending Beats Forecast

The government’s latest report shows spending on all construction projects was up 0.1 percent from December, coming to an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of $943.1 billion. That figure is 9.3 percent ahead of January 2013’s estimate of $863.1 billion. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.5 percent decline in spending to follow December’s originally reported 0.1 percent improvement.

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Servicer Earnings Underscore Uncertain Future

Three special servicers—Nationstar, Ocwen, and Walter Investment Corp.—released their fourth-quarter and year-end earnings reports with revenue increases and increasingly active originations sectors. At least one group of analysts suggests special servicers might “become the next generation of non-prime originators,” according to a report earlier this year from Moody’s.

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Fourth-Quarter GDP Growth Slashed

In the second of three planned reports, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) put gross domestic product (GDP) growth at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in Q4 2013, down from its initial estimate of 3.2 percent in January and its final report of 4.1 percent in the third-quarter. Full-year growth is estimated at 1.9 percent compared to 2.8 percent in 2012.

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