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Economy, Housing Market a Mixed Bag in 2012: Forecast

Freddie

The economy and housing market enter the New Year with mixed results, and will likely remain that way for at least the first part of 2012, Freddie Mac forecasted in a report Thursday. Citing numerous indices in his outlook, Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist with Freddie Mac, predicted that economic growth will likely hit 2.1 percent in the first quarter, up from the doldrums during the financial crisis. He said that U.S. unemployment will likely remain around 8.5 percent following a reversal for seasonal job growth.

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More Originators Fear Effects of Legislation: Survey

A survey released Wednesday found that more mortgage originators fear the effects of legislation for their industry than from any other challenge. Releasing the Second Annual Survey of Originator Opinions, mortgage industry recruiting firm Hammerhouse LLC polled about 400 active loan originators across the country on issues that ranged from regulation to technology. Asked which challenge felt the greatest for loan originators in 2012, 51 percent said oversight and legislation could crimp the industry.

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Housing Starts Fall 4.1% as Single-Family Starts Rise

Housing starts declined by 4.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in December, even while figures for single-family homes climbed year-over-year, offering signs that it may unseat multifamily construction after several months. Single-family housing starts went up 4.4 percent at a seasonally adjusted rate of 470,000, with the December rate for building construction with five units or more hovering around 147,000. Building permits crept forward to an annual rate of 679,000, a 7.8-percent increase year-over-year and 0.1-percent annual increase month-over-month.

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Mortgage Rates Reach New All-Time Lows. Again

Interest rates for mortgage loans plunged to new lows Thursday, as debt crises in Europe continued to weigh heavily on investors. Finance Web site Bankrate.com and mortgage company Freddie Mac released separate surveys signaling all-time lows for mortgage rates. For Freddie, the 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to 3.88 percent, down from 3.89 percent last week. Bankrate.com revealed rates for the 30-year mortgage staying the same at 4.18 percent. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage went up a percentage point for Freddie, reaching 3.17 percent, up from 3.16 percent last week.

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Veros Adds New Strategic Initiatives SVP

Adding to its management lineup, Veros Real Estate Solutions has announced the appointment of Charles Rumfola as the company's senior vice president of strategic initiatives. Veros will capitalize on Rumfola's extensive industry experience to enhance its activities in the secondary market.

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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

application

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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Witnesses Criticize, Call for Repeal of Volcker Rule

Witnesses testifying before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday warned lawmakers that the controversial Volcker Rule could tighten bank liquidity and make U.S. financial institutions less competitive with banks overseas. Once finalized by regulators, the rule ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô unless modified or repealed by lawmakers ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô will enact a provision under the Dodd-Frank Act that prohibits U.S. banks from engaging in short-term proprietary trading practices. Douglas Elliott, a fellow with the Brookings Institution, called for an outright repeal of the Volcker Rule.

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Experts: Basel III Will Mean Higher Borrowing Costs

Earlier Tuesday the FDIC went forward with a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register that calls for annual stress tests to determine capital adequacy for banks. The notice built on the Basel Accords, which the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision revisited with help from a consortium of central bankers over 2010 and 2011. Basel III is the latest by BCBS to require stress tests for systemically important financial institutions, which include Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and several other U.S. lenders.

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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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