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Fed: Winter Weather Softens Economic Growth

The Federal Reserve released Wednesday the Beige Book report summarizing economic conditions across its 12 districts from January through early February—and the word of the day was, naturally, “weather.” According to the Fed, reports from all districts indicated economic conditions continued to expand at a “modest to moderate” rate in most areas of the country, with only the New York and Philadelphia districts experiencing a decline in activity.

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Finance Execs Maintain Cautious Optimism for 2014

Out of more than 900 respondents to Fiserv’s 2014 Boardroom Series Outlook Survey, 50 percent expressed “somewhat” or “very optimistic” expectations for economic growth this year, with another 42 percent expecting the year to follow more or less the same track as 2013. A combined 9 percent said they are “somewhat” or “very pessimistic.”

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Purchase Application Volumes Down to 18-Year Low

The Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) application data for last month showed a 0.1 percent bump in total application volume, down from a gain of 2.5 percent in January. Growth was toppled by a 9.0 percent drop in applications for home purchases, which were at their lowest level in more than 18 years in February—despite a 9 percent week-over-week improvement to close out the month.

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Home Prices Up 12% in January HPI

CoreLogic’s Home Price Index (HPI) for January came out 12 percent ahead of last year’s report, marking the 23rd straight month of annual improvements. At the state level, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Texas each surpassed their respective price peaks in January. In all, CoreLogic reports 22 states and the District of Columbia are either at or within 10 percent of their peak home price appreciation.

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Investor Calls for Corporate Changes at Fannie, Freddie

In identical letters addressed to the boards of each enterprise, Bruce Berkowitz, managing member and chief investment officer of Fairholme Capital Management, urges the directors at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to “act in the best interests of each company and in accordance with accepted best practices for corporate governance.”

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CFPB Reform Bill Moves Through House

A new bill designed to reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is on its way to the U.S. Senate after passing in the house. H.R. 3193 (the Consumer Financial Freedom and Washington Accountability Act) was created to bring more "accountability and transparency" to the agency, according to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin), the bill's sponsor.

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LRES Announces New SVP, Executive Advisor

LRES, a national provider of residential and commercial valuations and asset management for the mortgage, banking, credit union, and real estate industries, named Richard Cimino as SVP and executive advisor.

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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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