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Private Mortgage Insurers Launch New Trade Group

Six of the nation’s leading active mortgage insurance (MI) companies announced Monday the formation of a new trade association: U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI). Founded by member companies Arch MI, Essent, Genworth MI, MGIC, National MI, and Radian Guaranty, the new organization replaces Mortgage Insurance Companies of America (MICA), which wound up operations earlier this year.

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‘Boom-Bust’ Markets Led Recession, Recovery, and Now: Moderation

The “boom-and-bust” markets, which led the nation in pre- and post-crisis home price trends, are now at the forefront of a new price trend—a deceleration in home price gains across the nation, according to Trulia. The national real estate company released its Price and Rent Monitors last week, revealing trends in asking prices across the country.

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Consumer Attitudes Improve on Housing, Weaken on Economy

After starting the year on a low note, consumer attitudes toward housing brightened overall in February, according to Fannie Mae. That renewed confidence in home prices spurred a boost in those saying now is a good time to buy a home; that number was up 3 percentage points to 68 percent. At the same time, though, the share of respondents saying they think it would be easy for them to get a mortgage right now retreated from January's all-time high.

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2013 Originations Down 14%; Wells Fargo Stays on Top

While mortgage origination volumes looked different last year compared to 2012, the list of top lenders looked very much the same. In full-year originations, Wells Fargo held on to its top spot, generating approximately $351 billion in loans—about 19 percent of last year’s total volume, according to Mortgage Daily. JPMorgan Chase followed up at No. 2 at $168 billion.

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Former RMBS Trader Found Guilty in TARP Fraud Case

The Special Inspector General's office for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) announced the fraud conviction of a former managing director at New York-based Jefferies & Co. According to Special Inspector Christy Romero, Jesse C. Litvak misrepresented asking prices on residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), pocketing the profits. "Trading in mortgage securities can be a complicated business, but what the defendant did was simple—he lied to, defrauded, and illegally overcharged customers out of pure greed to benefit Jefferies and himself," Romero said.

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Treasury Official Chimes in on Housing Finance Reform

Amid calls from the Obama administration for a more stable housing market—particularly where affordable housing is concerned—Michael Stegman, counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury for Housing Finance Policy, Thursday called for top-down reforms that would rewire how the federal government funds and regulates both government and private-label securities. He also criticized a pair of "implausible scenarios" that would either leave the GSE system to amend itself or rely on minor revisions.

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BSI Financial Introduces Quality Control Review System

BSI Financial Services, Inc., a privately held company specializing in residential mortgage servicing, subservicing, and quality control, announced the launch of BSI Client Asset Risk Evaluation System (CARES), an advanced loan quality control order management and process control solution.

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Borrower Health Improves in Q4; D.C. Ranks Highest

Compared to the prior period, the nation’s average Borrower Health Score was up 2.8 percent to 82.2, according to LendingTree, rebounding from the third quarter’s 1.6 point drop. The Borrower Health Score is calculated using the weighted average of credit score, loan-to-value ratio (LTV), and overall “lendability” of loan seekers in each state throughout the quarter.

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Energy Sector Growth Boosts Recovery

Nationwide, the economy and housing market are functioning at a level about 87 percent of their pre-crisis normal levels, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and First American’s Leading Markets Index. Fifty-nine of the 350 metro markets are at or above their pre-crisis norms, according to the index, up from 58 metros last month. At the same time, 130 markets are at least 90 percent of their pre-crisis levels, according to NAHB.

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Employers Add 175K Jobs in February; Unemployment at 6.7%

According to the Labor Department, the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in February, beating expectations after two weak months but still failing to impress. While more promising than December and January—which showed upwardly revised payroll growth of 84,000 and 129,000, respectively—February’s numbers still fell well short of 2013’s average monthly growth of 194,000.

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