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Homebuilder Confidence Climbs for Fourth Straight Month: NAHB

Confidence among homebuilders for new single-family homes climbed for the fourth straight month in January, as a pickup in housing starts and sales continued seemingly unabated. The National Association of Home Builders reported the figures Wednesday in a Housing Market Index it released in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The results: Homebuilder confidence escalated to the highest level seen since June 2007, ascending by four points to crest at 25 on the index. Prospective buyer traffic also posted the highest increases since June 2007.

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Mortgage Application Volume Jumps 23.1%: MBA

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Mortgage application volume shot up 23.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, largely on a refinancing surge that eclipsed averages year-over-year as investors frittered about Europe. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported the figures in its latest Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey. The trade group├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós Market Composite Index, a measure of application volume, climbed 38.1 percent on a seasonally unadjusted basis from the week before. The Refinance Index accordingly reflected a 26.4-percent increase from the week before to the highest level seen since August last year.

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Fixed-Rate Mortgage Drops to Record 3.69%: Zillow

Mortgage rates slumped to record lows Tuesday. Again. Real estate Web site Zillow released the weekly Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, which it develops by pooling quotes for mortgage rates from online users. The Web site reported the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hitting 3.69 percent this week ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô rock bottom, and a new low for the third straight week. Interest rates for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage hovered around 3.03 percent, all while the figures for 5-year and 1-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 2.63 percent.

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FDIC Rules Outline Living Wills, Stress Tests for Banks

The FDIC finalized one rule and proposed another Tuesday that requires systemically large financial institutions to submit resolution plans and undergo annual stress tests, respectively. Under the finalized rule, financial institutions with more than $50 billion in assets will need to craft so-called living wills, or resolution plans, for the FDIC and regulators to follow in the event of collapse. The agency also proposed another rule Tuesday for public commentary on capital adequacy tests, or stress tests, for financial institutions with $10 billion or more in assets, including 23 state non-member banks.

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Three New Partners Added at Cadawalader

Adding to its legal lineup, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP has announced the promotion of three new partners. The law firm revealed recently that Joseph Bial, Andrew Forman, and Peter Isajiw were made partners at Cadawalader as of January 1.

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UWM Releases 2011 Company Evaluation

Ending last year on a high note, United Wholesale Mortgage has released its 2011 scorecard. THe company showed demonstrable growth during the year, and UWM is preparing to continue its expansion in 2012.

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Low Credit Scores May Hurt Refinancing Homeowners: Report

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Although Freddie Mac did away with minimum credit scores for refinancing borrowers in early January, a small amount of equity on a home with scores below a certain level can still make it difficult for homeowners to secure mortgages, FreeScore.com said Monday. In a statement, the Web site said that borrowers with credit scores below the mid-600s could pay higher interest rates or larger down payments, if their home equity averages anywhere around 20 percent. FreeScore.com said that Freddie Mac sees scores between 770 and 850 as very good.

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Home Sales Rose 5.7% in November: RE/MAX

Home sales helped end the year on an upswing by rising 5.7 percent in November, real estate company RE/MAX said in a report Monday. The company also found that sales ticked up by 1.1 percent year-over-year in December, the sixth straight month to post an increase. Homes for sale declined for the eighteenth consecutive month, with a 25.7-percent loss year-over-year. Home prices aligned with figures for the same in November, down 0.35 percent month-over-month and year-over-year.

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Huntsman’s Departure Highlights Politics of Housing Finance

And then there were five. Republican presidential hopeful and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman threw his support Monday behind frontrunner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Not unlike his fellow candidates ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô or the incumbent himself ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô Huntsman left out any mention of housing finance reform and homeowners as issues for voters in the 2012 general election. Recent polls suggest that the political will exists to make housing finance policy a platform issue. MReport speaks with the experts to better understand housing finance policy and politics.

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Redwood Alters Executive Roles, Adds New President

A new president has been appointed at Redwood Trust, with the company's announcement that Brett Nicholas would take on the executive role. Replacing CEO Martin Hughes in the position, Nicholas was previously Redwood's chief investment and chief operating officer.

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