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January Pending Sales Essentially Flat

The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, edged up 0.1 percent to an even 95 last month as regional gains and declines offset each other. While it was hardly a banner report, January’s gain at least turned around the prior month’s originally reported 8.7 percent decline to 92.4, the lowest reading since November 2011.

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Underwater Rate Falls Below 20%; Declines Expected to Slow

For the first time in years, the national negative equity rate dipped below 20 percent to close out 2013, Zillow revealed Friday in its quarterly Negative Equity Report. According to the company’s stats, negative equity declined to 19.4 percent nationally as of the end of last quarter, bringing the underwater rate down more than 8 percentage points over the course of 2013.

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Freddie Mac Reports Q4 Profit; Will Pay $10B to Treasury

Freddie Mac released on Thursday its quarterly earnings report for the end of 2013, revealing yet another strong quarter—the ninth straight. Net income at the enterprise totaled $8.6 billion in Q4, bringing total 2013 profits up to $48.7 billion. According to the company, full-year earnings were spurred by the ongoing housing recovery, legal settlements totaling $7.7 billion, and a tax benefit of $23.3 billion.

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Mortgage Rates Mixed to End February

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, released Thursday, has fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) products rising over the week ending February 27, with the 30-year fixed coming up to 4.37 percent (0.7 point) from 4.33 percent previously. A year ago, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.51 percent. At the same time, finance site Bankrate.com reported opposite movements in its own national survey.

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FDIC Banks Report Earnings Increase Despite ‘Difficulty Growing Revenue’

FDIC-insured institutions earned a net income of $154.7 billion over the year in 2013, a 9.6 percent increase over the previous year, according to a report released by the agency. “[T]he industry continues to experience difficulty growing revenue,” said FDIC chairman Martin J. Gruenberg. He listed “[n]arrow margins, modest loan growth, and a decline in mortgage refinancing activity” as hindrances to revenue growth.

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FHFA Price Index Up 1.2% in Q4

On a quarterly basis, home prices rose 1.2 percent, marking the tenth consecutive quarter of price increases, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency's House Price Index report. The price appreciation that took place in the fourth quarter was "considerable, but more modest than in recent periods," said Andrew Leventis, principal economist for the FHFA.

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Report Weighs Effects of Buyer, Seller Groups on Home Supply

It’s been accepted for the last few years that housing supply hasn’t been able to keep up with demand, contributing to large gains in home prices nationwide—but how do the numbers break down, and how do specific groups of buyers and sellers balance against each other?

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Analysts Warn of ‘Next Generation’ of Subprime Lenders

Regulators have recently moved to curb growth at non-bank servicers amid concerns about their practices—and that might actually be for the best, say analysts for Moody's Investors Service. At the same time, they worry that companies might attempt to offset any slowdown in growth by shifting business models and originating non-prime mortgages, “a net credit negative.”

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Buying Costs Still Beat Renting, but for How Long?

Despite reports of declining home affordability nationwide, Trulia’s latest data shows purchasing a home still remains more affordable than renting in the largest markets—though the scale is close to tipping in a few. Mortgage rates would have to climb to 10.6 percent before ownership costs eclipsed rental costs on a national scale, Trulia says in its Winter 2014 Rent vs. Buy Report. For some markets, however, that number dips as low as 5.0 percent.

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Mortgage Apps Down for Third Straight Week

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported a seasonally adjusted 8.5 percent drop in loan application volume for the week ending February 21, bringing application numbers even lower after a 4.1 percent decrease the previous week. “[T]his is the time of year we would expect a significant pickup in purchase activity, and we are not yet seeing it,” remarked MBA chief economist Mike Fratantoni.

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