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Fraudster Allegedly Bilks Three Churches With Bad Loans

Making our mortgage fraud blotter Monday, news outlets reported stories involving a Wisconsin man and his wife who allegedly raked in $10 million and another man from Chicago purportedly responsible for hundreds of thousands in advanced fees he bilked from churches. In one story, the churches handed over thousands in advance fees in exchange for capital for multimillion-dollar loans, while in another a married couple went through sham buyers to siphon $10 million in funds from lenders with bank-owned properties at their disposal.

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Markets Lift With Job Growth, Home Prices, Permits

Job growth, appreciating home prices, and fewer scuttled single-family housing permits helped improve 76 housing markets over the last six months, according to an index released Monday. The National Association of Home Builders and First American Title Insurance Company released a joint index to measure improving markets against these criteria. Cities that made the index included Dallas, Des Moines, and Jacksonville, with Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas garnering the most of any states in improving markets.

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Americans Feel More Confident About Housing: Survey

Consumer sentiment climbed higher last month despite historically low conditions, with Americans by and large feeling more optimistic about housing, according to Fannie Mae. In conducting its December National Housing Survey, the GSE polled 1,000 respondents with questions about the economy and housing conditions at large. The big picture? More Americans expect a better New Year for their financial circumstances, higher home prices and mortgage rates, and steadily improving conditions for the housing market. Sixty-four percent reported wanting to buy their next home.

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Home Prices Slid Back 2.1% in 2011: Clear Capital

Home prices fell year-over-year by 2.1 percent in 2011 but at the slightest clip unseen since 2006, with forecasts for a welcome appreciation on the way in 2012, according to Clear Capital. The real estate research organization offered up the numbers in a Home Data Index Market Report it releases monthly. What do the numbers say? Home prices sagged in early 2011 but lifted as the market underwent some stabilization and more bank-owned properties left the housing supply. The report suggested that home prices could inch forward by 0.2 percent, with many markets ready to stabilize.

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HSBC Forms New Legal Panel for Borrowers

In international news, HSBC has announced the formation of a company panel devoted to extending legal aid to its mortgage borrowers. The panel, which will be made up of solicitors and licensed conveyancers, will target the provision of required legal services for those purchasing a home mortgage via HSBC.

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Duke: Tight Credit May Be to Blame for Slow Recovery

Still-tight credit supply is at fault for anemic demand in the housing market, preventing a full-fledged recovery from exerting itself, according to one governor on the Federal Reserve Board. Delivering a presentation before trade groups in Virginia earlier Friday, Fed governor Elizabeth Duke faulted underwriting and lending standards, among other market forces, for delaying financial support for homeowners. She said tight credit conditions persist even when the GSEs and FHA offer lenders a number of opportunities to shield themselves from additional risk.

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New CFPB Director Promotes Deputy Directors

Not two days after his recess appointment, newly minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray named de facto leader Raj Date his second-in-command. Date has led the CFPB since it went live in July, serving as day-to-day operations chief and testifying before Congress on its behalf. With degrees from the University of California and Harvard Law, he earned marks from the financial services industry with past roles at Capital One and Deutsche Bank. Cordray also made a string of other appointments at the bureau.

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Obama Praises, Meets With Cordray, CFPB Staff

President Barack Obama stopped by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier Friday to welcome the staff and new director Richard Cordray. The chief executive sent shockwaves around the mortgage servicing and lending industries Wednesday by making the controversial decision to recess appoint Cordray as CFPB director. The move bypassed lawmakers in the Senate, namely 44 Republicans that vowed earlier this year to block any nominee for the bureau, no matter the party affiliation.

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Economy Picks Up Steam With 200K Jobs in December

The U.S. economy soldiered ahead by adding 200,000 jobs over December, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent as more employers picked up seasonal staff members for the holidays. The Labor Department reported Friday that total private-sector employment reached 212,000 last month, alongside fewer jobs for local and state governments, marginal declines in real estate services, and a notable pickup in residential construction around the country. Real estate, rental and leasing services lost jobs by 1.3 percent on average in December.

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