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Continuing, Initial Unemployment Claims Fall Again

First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell 13,000 for the week ending February 11 to 348,000 to the lowest level since March 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday. Continuing claims, reported on a one-week lag, fell as well, dropping 100,000 to 3,426,000, the lowest level since August 2008. The drop in initial claims was the third consecutive weekly decline; in that period first-time claims have fallen 31,000, or about 8 percent. The total number of individuals receiving benefits ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô including emergency and extended programs ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô rose slightly for the week ended January 28.

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Housing Starts, Permits Up in January as Completions Drop

Housing starts rose 1.5 percent in January to 699,000, compared with market expectations for a smaller increase to 675,000. Housing starts are 9.9 percent above their year ago level but still 69.2 percent below their January 2006 peak. Single-family housing starts fell 1.0 percent to 508,000. Starts fell month-month in the colder northeast and Midwest but increased in the south and west. Single-family starts are 16.2 percent above levels of a year ago but still 72.1 percent below their January 2006 peak. Single-family starts have averaged 491,000 per month.

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Mortgage Application Volume Ticks Down 1%: MBA

application

Mortgage application volume fell 1 percent from the week before, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Releasing the latest weekly figures, the trade group said that mortgage applications remained unchanged on a seasonally unadjusted basis.The Refinance Index went up by 0.8 percent to crest at the highest level since August last year, while the Purchase Index contracted by 8.4 percent from the week before. It fell by 3.3 percent on an unadjusted basis.

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Report: HARP 2.0 Benefits Small Originators Most

Modifications to the Home Affordable Refinance Program will likely benefit small loan originators this year, even while refinance share of activity beats market expectations, FBR Capital Markets said in a note Wednesday. Paul Miller, an analyst with the research arm of the investment bank, attributed the information to D.C. insiders and government contacts, which hold that approximately 3.5 million to 4 million loans will enter the refinance program this year.

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Housing Market Index Highest in Nearly Five Years: NAHB

The National Home Builders Association released a housing market index that improved to 29 in February, its highest level since May 2007, with all three of the components showing new strength. The trade group said that it was the fifth consecutive monthly increase, the longest stretch of consecutive monthly increases since April- October 1995. The current conditions index rose to 30, a five-point jump, the largest month-over-month gain since April 2010. The forecast component, assessing conditions six months out.

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Carrington Finalizes Legal Agreement with AHMSI

Carrington Capital Management has finalized a legal agreement with American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc. The transaction concludes a lawsuit filed by Carrington against AHMSI in 2009.The terms of the settlement are confidential and no additional details were made available regarding the closure of the legal matter. In an official statement from Carrington Holding Company, LLC, the company noted that the recent deal "resolves the disputes reflected in the action, along with any other disputes between the parties in the past."

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Avison Young Appoints Two New Principals

Avison Young is starting the new year with the addition of two new principals to the company's Illinois-based operations. The commercial real estate services firm has hired data center experts Jim Kerrigan and David Horowitz to bolster its brokerage activities in Chicago.

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New ‘Relationship Banking’ Unit for Brentwood Bank

In Pennsylvania, Brentwood Bank is launching a consumer-focused division targeting small to mid-sized businesses. The financial institution recently announced the addition of its Relationship Banking Unit, which will be dedicated to securing opportunities for the bank within the local business community. Through its new segment, Brentwood Bank will provide a relationship banker for borrowers and customers, ensuring that the same professional will handle the client's needs during the lifespan of the consumer's transactions.

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300-Plus Personnel Leaving MetLife for Caliber

Initiating a major expansion into four new regional markets, Caliber Funding LLC recently announced the hiring of more than 300 mortgage professionals. Caliber's personnel additions will serve to staff the company's operations in New England; the Great Lakes area; the Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware area; and greater Washington, D.C. Caliber's aggressive march into new markets will enhance its presence around the U.S., positioning Caliber for what the company hopes will be a pattern of significant growth during the year ahead.

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