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Obama Budget Proposes ‘Responsibility Fee’ for Big Banks

The Obama administration unveiled a budget for the next fiscal year that proposes levying fees for the nation├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós largest banks, selling off government-occupied real estate, and expanding services for the Federal Housing Administration. The $3.8-trillion budget calls for a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to offset costs to the Troubled Asset Relief Program and mass refinance program. If passed by Congress, the fee would raise $61 billion from financial institutions with $50 billion or more in assets over the next decade. The fee draws on recent themes from the president.

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Thompson & Knight Adds Two Partners in New York

Thompson & Knight LLP has gained two new partners for its Real Estate Capital Markets division, announcing the addition of attorneys William M. O'Connor and Evelyn H. Seeler to the company's New York office. In their new positions with the law firm, O'Connor and Seeler will be responsible for handling clients within the Real Estate and Capital Markets unit, as well as restructuring and bankruptcy matters.

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JKHY’s Symitar Division Boosts Credit Union Services

The technology division of Jack Henry & Associates, Inc. (JKHY), is experiencing an uptick in interest from credit unions, announcing that more than 16 existing credit union clients have recently opted to engage the company's outsourcing module through JKHY's Symitar unit. JKHY's Symitar division encompasses both in-house and outsourced platform options, and credit unions are increasingly migrating from the in-house offering, Episys, to the outsourced version, EASE.

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Home Sales Rise 3.4% in January: RE/MAX

Home sales climbed 3.4 percent year-over-year in January, hitting a stride for the seventh consecutive month, according to RE/MAX. The real estate company released a National Housing Report that shows a sudden sales jump by yearend 2011, with homes for sale down 19.3 percent month-over-month. The company attributed falling inventory numbers to a shortfall in foreclosed properties, with home prices declining by 0.8 percent in 53 metropolitan areas. Home prices leapt forward in 15 metro areas year-over-year, with figures increasing by 23.8 percent in Miami, among many other cities.

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Zillow Announces New Vice President of Partner Relations

Zillow, Inc., has named a new vice president of partner relations, with the announcement that Robert D. Bemis has been appointed to the leadership role. In his new position for the online real estate company, Bemis will be responsible for creating new partnerships with real estate brokers and agents, as well as multiple listing services (MLS) around the nation.

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Mortgage Rates Stay at Record Lows as Europe Fears Linger

The story for mortgage rates stayed the same Thursday, with the specter of sovereign default keeping investors close to Treasury debt and interest for home loans at all-time lows. Both GSE Freddie Mac and finance Web site Bankrate.com reported yet more troughs for fixed-rate mortgages, failing to break with more than two months of low interest rates for home loans. For Freddie, the 30-year loan remained unchanged from last week at 3.87 percent, even while Bankrate.com found new record-breaking lows for the same at 4.10 percent, down from 4.14 percent last week.

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Continuing, Initial Unemployment Claims Fall Again

First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell 13,000 for the week ending February 11 to 348,000 to the lowest level since March 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday. Continuing claims, reported on a one-week lag, fell as well, dropping 100,000 to 3,426,000, the lowest level since August 2008. The drop in initial claims was the third consecutive weekly decline; in that period first-time claims have fallen 31,000, or about 8 percent. The total number of individuals receiving benefits ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô including emergency and extended programs ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô rose slightly for the week ended January 28.

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Housing Starts, Permits Up in January as Completions Drop

Housing starts rose 1.5 percent in January to 699,000, compared with market expectations for a smaller increase to 675,000. Housing starts are 9.9 percent above their year ago level but still 69.2 percent below their January 2006 peak. Single-family housing starts fell 1.0 percent to 508,000. Starts fell month-month in the colder northeast and Midwest but increased in the south and west. Single-family starts are 16.2 percent above levels of a year ago but still 72.1 percent below their January 2006 peak. Single-family starts have averaged 491,000 per month.

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Mortgage Application Volume Ticks Down 1%: MBA


Mortgage application volume fell 1 percent from the week before, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Releasing the latest weekly figures, the trade group said that mortgage applications remained unchanged on a seasonally unadjusted basis.The Refinance Index went up by 0.8 percent to crest at the highest level since August last year, while the Purchase Index contracted by 8.4 percent from the week before. It fell by 3.3 percent on an unadjusted basis.

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