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Mortgage Rates Down in Lead-Up to Fed Announcement

Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, released Thursday, showed the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaging 4.32 percent (0.6 point) for the week ending March 20, down from last week, when it averaged 4.37 percent. A year ago, the 30-year FRM average was 3.54 percent. Since falling from 4.53 percent in 2014’s first weeks, the 30-year fixed average has seen limited movements since, staying in the 4.2-4.3 percent range.

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Existing-Home Sales Weaken Further Amid Tough Conditions

According to the National Association of Realtor’s sales data, total existing-home sales—including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops—declined 0.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.60 million, matching a consensus forecast among economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Following January’s decline, February took the new record for having the slowest sales pace since July 2012.

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Fitch Finalizes Criteria on QM, Non-QM Securities

Two months after the implementation date of the qualified mortgage (QM) and ability-to-repay rules, Fitch Ratings announced it has finalized new criteria for analyzing loans in securities taking the new guidelines into account. Fitch developed assumptions with respect to the probability of challenges to the rule or a mortgage’s QM status, as well as the potential costs or damages.

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Report: Buyer/Seller Balance a Matter of East vs. West

A look at buyers' and sellers' markets around the country from Zillow shows that the better job market in the West is drawing more buyers and driving up competition for homes in more economically stable cities, thus giving sellers the upper hand in home sales negotiations in western metro areas. Meanwhile, leverage for buyers is strongest in cities in the East and Midwest, where less competition for homes will likely give them more room for bargaining on prices.

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Loan Closings Up in February; Credit Standards Unchanged

Using a sample of loan applications initiated in November 2013, Ellie Mae calculated a closing rate of 55.3 percent in its February Origination Insight Report—a small bump from 54.9 percent in January. Meanwhile, credit standards on closed loans remained unchanged, averaging a FICO score of 724 and a loan-to-value ratio (LTV) of 82 percent. Compared to February 2013, though, standards were much more relaxed.

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Fed Members Vote to Continue Taper

Citing the “cumulative progress toward maximum employment and the improvement in the outlook for labor market conditions” since the start of the current stimulus program in 2012, the Federal Open Market Committee decided at its March meeting to reduce purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities to a pace of $25 billion per month and to dial back purchases of long-term Treasury securities to a pace of $30 billion each month, starting in April.

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California Joins $2B Settlement with Ocwen

California's Department of Business Oversight announced the state has joined 48 others in reaching a $2.1 billion settlement with Ocwen Financial Corporation and Ocwen Loan Servicing. The lawsuit stems from Ocwen's acquisition of two mortgage servicers, Litton Loan Servicing, LP and Homeward Residential, Inc., in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Ocwen was held liable for prior malfeasance regarding mortgage servicing laws.

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Mortgage App Volumes Down Another 1.2%

Last week saw another tumble in mortgage applications despite a slight fallback in interest rates, according to weekly data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). MBA’s Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume, fell 1.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending March 14. On an unadjusted basis, the index dropped 1 percent compared to the previous week.

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IDS, MortgageFlex Develop Doc Prep/LOS Integration

International Document Services (IDS), a mortgage document preparation vendor, and MortgageFlex Systems, a mortgage loan software provider, announced the development of a joint ‘lights out’ interface between IDS’ flagship preparation system—idsDoc—and MortgageFlex’s LoanQuest software.

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Mortgage Settlement Banks Fulfill Relief Requirements

The appointed monitor for the National Mortgage Settlement revealed Tuesday that all banks involved in the settlement have satisfied their consumer relief and refinancing obligations—and nearly a year ahead of schedule. In a release, Joseph A. Smith Jr. commented, "Because of the way this landmark agreement was designed, an unprecedented amount of relief has been provided to consumers quickly and efficiently."

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