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Mortgage Rates Up for Second Week

Freddie Mac released Thursday its Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending February 20, showing the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) coming up 5 basis points to a rate of 4.33 percent (0.7 point). This time last year, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.56 percent. Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist for Freddie Mac, said the change reflects market forecasts of what the Federal Reserve’s next move might be.

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Report: Borrowing Up Among Younger Consumers

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed Tuesday that aggregate consumer debt rose in 2013's final quarter, citing an increase of $241 billion dollars. The figure represents the largest quarter-to-quarter increase since 2007. The report commented, "All groups, even those with subprime credit scores, increased their mortgage balances in 2006. Now, the modest mortgage balance increases we see are mainly coming from high credit score borrowers."

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Winter Storms Take Another Bite Out of Home Sales

While home sales were down nearly 27 percent over the month, they were down 7.1 percent from January last year, according to the RE/MAX report, which includes data from 52 metros across the nation. “We usually expect to see fewer home sales in the winter months, but January experienced particularly severe storms in large parts of the country, which disrupted appraisals, inspections and closings,” said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX.

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Refinances Up, Standards Down in January Origination Report

Examining a sample of applications passing through its network, Ellie Mae reports refinance mortgages made up 47 percent of originations in January, up slightly from December. Refinance share bottomed out at 39 percent in October 2013 and has slowly risen since. The increase in refinances compared to purchase loans matches Freddie Mac’s latest outlook, which observed a “second wind” for remortgaging as interest rates resist lifting factors.

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January Housing Starts Plummet

The Census and HUD announced jointly Wednesday that housing starts in January ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, a 16 percent decline from December. The drop in starts came during a month in which homebuilder confidence in the single-family market (as measured by the National Association of Home Builders) measured at an index value of 57, reflecting general optimism.

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Mortgage Apps Experience Steeper Decline

After seeing their first notable drop of the year in February’s first week, mortgage applications continued to slide down a slipperier slope approaching the middle of the month, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported. According to MBA’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey, loan application volume dropped 4.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending February 14. Unadjusted, the index was down a smaller 2 percent.

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The Housing Freeze: Is Weather Really to Blame?

As the year kicks off to a mediocre start for housing, two camps have emerged: those who say trends indicate a sour turn for the market, and those who are more apt to dismiss the worst news as an effect of the last few months’ harsh weather. With major reports on construction and sales data on the way, Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko looked at historical patterns to determine—how much has the weather really influenced housing numbers?

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Report: Wells Fargo Setting Sights Back on Subprime

Wells Fargo is reportedly looking to return to the subprime market by bringing in customers with credit scores as low as 600, according to Reuters. Lenders venturing back into the high-risk loans market are even using a subtle marketing trick to assuage fear and spur demand—subprime loans become "another chance mortgages" or "alternative mortgages," shedding the stigmatized "subprime" label, the report says.

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