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Home Prices Fell 4.7% in 2011: CoreLogic

Home prices for transactions fell by 4.7 percent year-over-year in 2011, making last year the fifth straight one in which prices underwent declines, according to CoreLogic. The data and analytics provider released the latest figures Thursday in a home price index that also recorded year-over-year declines by 2 percent over November last year. Those with the steepest declines in home prices included Illinois, Nevada, Georgia, Ohio, and Minnesota, each by 11.3 percent, 10.6 percent, 8.3 percent, 7.7 percent, and 7.5 percent, respectively.

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Citigroup to Exit Mortgage Brokerage Channel

Citigroup joined a host of other financial institutions Wednesday by declaring that it plans to exit the mortgage brokerage business. A spokesperson said that the bank decided to depart from the brokerage channel in order to focus on the rest of the business, particularly mortgage origination in the correspondent and retail lending sectors. The move follows similar departures from around the mortgage origination and servicing sectors by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife, and Morgan Stanley last fall.

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Provident Expands Retail Mortgage Business

In California, Provident Financial Holdings, Inc., has announced its entry into retail originations. The company recently announced that it has hired a retail mortgage banking group to open loan production locations under the Provident Bank Mortgage banner throughout the northern region of the state.

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LPS Responds to Nevada AG’s Allegations

Lender Processing Services, Inc., has officially responded to the December complaint made by the Nevada Attorney General. In a company statement, LPS stated that it has filed a motion to dismiss, based on legal defects.

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Refi Applications High as Overall Volume Drops 2.9%: MBA

Mortgage application volume contracted by 2.9 percent from the week before, even while refinance volume continued to soar amid signs that more homeowners are seeking to take advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance Program. The Mortgage Bankers Association found in a weekly survey that mortgage loan application volume simultaneously went up 9 percent on a seasonally unadjusted basis. The trade group├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós Purchase Index climbed by 17.1 percent but remains 4.3 percent lower than figures seen during the same week last year.

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Gingrich Rout Shows How Housing Remains a Political Bludgeon

Republican presidential candidates used housing issues in Florida to trump up their bona fides in separate addresses Tuesday. With nearly all precincts reporting in Florida, former Gov. Mitt Romney routed former House speaker and rival Newt Gingrich by 46.4 percent to 31.9 percent. The Dodd-Frank Act, new mortgage rules and regulation, and foreclosures all made appearances in addresses by Gingrich and Romney. Numerous analysts credit housing-related ads helping the former Masschusetts governor head off a primary threat.

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Obama Unveils New Refi Plan, Homeowner ‘Bill of Rights’

The Obama administration rolled out an ambitious package of benefits and structural changes Wednesday for homeowners who want to refinance their loans. The plan would cost anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion and pay for itself with fees exacted from financial institutions. If it makes it into law, the bill would significantly expand refinancing opportunities for underwater borrowers, shift appraisal responsibilities in distressed neighborhoods to an automated system under the GSEs, and offer new servicing reforms.

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MDC’s Board Appoints New Financial Leader

In less than two weeks, M.D.C. Holdings, Inc., will welcome a new company officer, with the announcement that John M. Stephens will join MDC as the group's chief financial officer, principal accounting officer, and senior vice president. MDC's board of directors recently appointed Stephens to the leadership positions, and his new roles with MDC will become effective on February 13.

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Cordray Fends Off Continuing Concerns, Criticism at Hearing

Newly appointed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray fended off another round of concern and criticism at a congressional hearing Tuesday even as he portrayed Congress as an important check on the bureau├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós power. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle stayed true to their parties├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ó positions by alternately casting Cordray├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós recess appointment as a potentially dangerous abuse of presidential power and as a needed solution to congressional gridlock.

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Homeownership Rates Wallow at Nearly 15-Year Lows

Homeowners moved closer to the sidelines last year, buying fewer homes than in 2010 and edging homeownership toward lows not seen since the 1990s. The Commerce Department released figures Tuesday that posted 66 percent for homeownership rates last quarter, reflecting declines by 0.5 percent year-over-year and 0.3 percent on a quarterly basis. Homeownership vacancy rates hovered around 2.3 percent last quarter, 0.4 percentage points lower than in 2010.

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