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SEC Investigation Puts Additional Heat on GSEs

The head of Fortress Investment Group has left his position with the company and has simultaneously stepped down from the company's board of directors. Daniel Mudd, who has previously served as the CEO of Fannie Mae, is currently one of six former GSE executives under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for fraud-related charges. The SEC's accusations encompass fraudulent actions regarding the GSEs' exposure to subprime loans.

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Housing Numbers Show Happy New Year for Some States

Statistical tallies for fourth-quarter home sales seem to support the idea that 2012 will represent a period of growth in some regions, and throughout the U.S., the National Association of Realtors reported a 12.2 percent jump in November sales on a year-over-year basis.

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Ahead of 2012, Home Sales Rise 4% in November

Home sales followed a rocky road in 2011, as concerns over credit ratings, mounting public debt, and the potential for a double-dip recession forced homebuyers to the sidelines. MReport takes a look back at this year├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós home sales ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô and looks forward to figures in 2012. This week the National Association of Realtors reported home sales leaping forward 4 percent to crest at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million in November, up from 4.25 million in October and 12.2 percent above 3.94 million-unit figures recorded in November last year.

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Fitch Says U.S. Debt Rating Precarious

Fitch Ratings revealed some bad news for the U.S. recently, releasing updated statistics that indicate the country's AAA sovereign debt rating could be in jeopardy as early as 2013. The agency stated in its report that, should policymakers fail to make strides in curbing the federal deficit, the nation will lose its current rating. The company is now forecasting a possible downgrade if the fiscal picture in the country grows more precarious over the next 12 to 18 months.

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Study Shows Enduring Rise in Consumer Sentiment

Consumer sentiment is on the uptick, at least according to a new index released by Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan. During the month of December, U.S. consumers showed a 2.2-point increase in positive economic sentiment, representing the highest recording since June of this year. The index's mid-month evaluation of consumers' attitudes rang in at 69.9, and the current figure demonstrates the fourth consecutive month of growth.

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Home Prices Fall 0.2% Over October: FHFA

The Federal Housing Finance Agency released a house price index Thursday that tracked a 0.2-percent shortfall in prices on a seasonally adjusted basis from September to October. The FHFA releases home price indices each month to denote figures for home prices from across the country. September├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós 0.9-percent upswing entered a downward revision that saw home prices fall 2.8 percent, with the U.S. index 19.2 percent below a peak seen in April 2007. Census divisions from the report included regions from across the country, which by and large saw marginal downward revisions from September to October.

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Mortgage Rates Slam Into New Holiday Lows

Interest rates for mortgage loans slammed into new lows just before a holiday break, with investors hewing close to the safety of U.S. Treasury debt. Finance Web site Bankrate.com and mortgage company Freddie Mac released their findings in separate weekly surveys. Freddie Mac found the 30-year loan falling to 3.91 percent this week, the lowest this year, as it rocketed past a previous rock-bottom rate of 3.94 percent. Bankrate.com meanwhile found the 30-year fixed-mortgage reaching a second all-time low for the week, as rates for the loan ticked up from 4.19 percent to crest at 4.20 percent.

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Home Values Decline 0.3% in October: Zillow

Home values continued on a downward-facing slope by declining 0.3 percent in October, with more to come over 2012, according to real estate Web site Zillow. The company released a monthly Zillow Real Estate Market Report that found monthly depreciation rates nonetheless stabilizing as the housing market bottoms out. Zillow found declines for home values year-over-year by 5.1 percent to $147,900, as home values declined by 23.7 percent since peaking in May 2007.

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Mortgage Applications Fall 2.6% From Week Before: MBA

Mortgage applications fell 2.6 percent from the week before as mortgage rates slammed into news lows, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. The Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume, contracted by 2.8 percent on a seasonally unadjusted basis from the week before, while the Refinance Index fell 1.6 percent during the same time frame. The Purchase Index meanwhile dropped 4.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from the week earlier, compared with a 7.5-percent shortfall for the same on a seasonally unadjusted basis.

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Two New Executives Added at Sun National

Sun National Bank is updating is commercial lending team, with the addition of two new executives. Targeting support and growth for its middle market and commercial real estate business, Sun National has hired Anthony W. LaMarca and Joseph C. Tkac. LaMarca is joining Sun National as the company├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós senior vice president and wholesale regional manager for its south New Jersey and Philadelphia markets.

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