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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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Settlement Helps Fund $4M in Reverse Mortgage Assistance

On Friday HUD unveiled an infusion of more than $42 million in grants to housing counseling agencies, with some of the funds on the way from an historic $25-billion settlement reached with servicers several weeks ago. Of $36 million in grants made available to housing counseling agencies, $4 million will shore up services designed to help more elderly homeowners secure reverse mortgages and Home Equity Conversion Mortgages. More than 400 housing agencies across the nation will benefit from the availability of a flush of new funds.

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Cordray Calls on Press to Deliver CFPB’s Message

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray told a gathering of the nation's editors and journalists Friday that the agency needs their help to make consumers more aware of predatory lending hurdles. He highlighted efforts by the CFPB to increase transparency in the markets, underscored the role undertaken by lenders in the crisis, and played up the need for more regulation for servicers. The address by Cordray is the latest in a round of public appearances by the CFPB director, newly appointed by President Barack Obama in January.

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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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Bank’s Acquisition Leads to Single Largest Conversion

PNC Financial Services Group completed the acquisition of RBC Bank, reopening more than 400 branches across six Southeastern states as PNC banks. At 415 branches, this was PNC's single largest conversion occurring at one time. Former RBC branches were in business March 5 as PNC Banks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The conversation also involved the transition of 900,000 customers. The Pittsburgh-based bank now has 2,900 locations across 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to a company release.

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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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