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Nearly 100 Housing Markets Improve in March: NAHB

Fewer declines in housing permits, strengthening job numbers, and stabilizing home prices helped field improvements in nearly 100 housing markets in March, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The trade group released results to show that 31 metropolitan markets joined the First American Improving Markets Index, canceling departures from the list by 30 others. The total number of improving markets settled at 99. New additions signaled improvements in 33 states, with Texas outpacing other states with 12 entrants.

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Mortgage Rates Rise With Higher Treasury Yields

The days of record-low mortgage rates may be in our rearview mirror. Rates for all loan products headed higher this week - and by more than just the incremental 1 or 2 basis points. Analysts attribute the rise to increasing bond yields, driven by investors' growing confidence in the economy and recent evidence from the Federal Reserve's stress tests that indicates banks have strengthened capital levels enough to maintain operations and continue lending through another hypothetical recession.

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Zillow’s Indices Show Rental Markets on the Rise

A new survey from Zillow, Inc., reveals that rental markets around the U.S. continue to grow. Citing declining home values, the company reported that 70 percent of markets nationwide saw an increase in rents during January. Statistics from Zillow's recent study showed that median rents moved forward by 3 percent on a year-over-year basis in January, and the findings also noted a correlating 4.6 percent drop in home pricing for the same period. January's Zillow Rent Index (ZRI) tallied year-over-year gains in 69.2 percent of all metropolitan areas covered within the report.

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Declining Initial Unemployment Claims Reverse Trends

First time claims for unemployment insurance fell 14,000 in the week ended March 9, according to the Labor Department. In a Thursday report, the bureau noted that the decline represents the first drop in four weeks. Continuing claims, reported on a one-week lag, also fell, dropping 81,000 to 3,343,000, after two second straight weekly increases. The four week moving average for initial claims was flat at 355,750, unchanged from the previous week while the four week average for continuing claims declined 25,250 to 3,394,250.

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Chase Becomes First Bank to Settle Veteran Fraud Case

JPMorgan Chase has finalized a deal that puts an end to mortgage fraud allegations that created critical headlines for the bank. The company announced on Tuesday that it has reached a settlement in a lawsuit that accused Chase of refinancing fraud against military veterans and taxpayers. In total, Chase will pay the federal government $45 million to conclude the legal issue, which sought to bring the bank to justice for hiding illegal fees within home mortgage refinancing transactions for veterans.

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Zillow: Statistics Show Upticks Across Lending Sector

Economic releases in recent days have signaled positive movement, albeit gradual, toward a strengthening economy. The rosier outlook has led mortgage interest rates higher. The 30-year fixed-mortgage rate on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace came in at 3.74 percent, up five basis points from 3.69 percent at the same time last week. Rates for a 15-year fixed mortgage, as well as adjustable-rate mortgages, also rose. Experts say conditions are primed for mortgage rates to continue to rise in the coming weeks and months.

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Standard & Poor’s: Has the Housing Market Hit Bottom?

Standard & Poor's Tuesday Webinar provided insight into a key industry question - "Is the housing market bottoming out?" The broad inquiry served as the title for S&P's web-based presentation, which included contributing analysts Beth Ann Bovino, Erkan Erturk, and Valerie White. Offering their take on the current state of U.S. real estate, the participants discussed home pricing, the return of the private-label securitization market, not-for-profit housing, corporate homebuilders, and the nation's housing agencies.

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New Lending Partnership for National Builder

National homebuilder KB Home is partnering with Nationstar Mortgage to offer financing on its homes. KB Home announced Nationstar as its preferred mortgage lender this week, noting, "The agreement with Nationstar is intended to offer KB Home customers a seamless home buying experience, from purchase and mortgage application to picking up the keys to their new home." Nationstar's broad national presence was a major catalyst behind the establishment of the partnership with the homebuilder.

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Canadians Initiate NYC Real Estate Investment Expansion

Canadian real estate investment company Timbercreek Asset Management is expanding its global focus stateside, with the launch of the company's New York City location. Timbercreek manages approximately $2 billion in assets through its private and publicly-traded real estate-focused funds, and the company's New York launch follows the opening of Timbercreek offices in Switzerland. Leading Timbercreek's push into new markets are three former employees of Citigroup's real estate unit.

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