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Consumer Confidence Staggers in March as Sequester Hits

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index fell to 59.7 from February's reading of 68.0 (which was revised down from 69.6). The decline wipes out most of the gains observed last month and brings the index to its second lowest reading so far this year. According to Lynn Franco, director or economic indicators at The Conference Board, the retreat in consumer confidence was driven primarily by a sharp decline in respondents' economic outlook, "although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions."

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New Home Sales in Steepest Drop in Two Years

New home sales fell 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 in February, the sharpest drop in two years, the Census Bureau and HUD reported Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a smaller drop to 425,000 from January's originally reported sales of 437,000. January sales were revised down to 431,000. The sharp drop in sales combined with a steep price increase suggests builders are facing some price pushback from buyers for new homes even as supplies of existing single-family homes remain at historic lows.

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February Case-Shiller Indices Post Strongest Gain Since 2006

Home prices posted their strongest yearly gain in almost seven years in January, according to the Case-Shiller 10- and 20-city Home Price Indices released Tuesday. Home prices rose year-over-year in all 20 of the cities in the Case-Shiller survey. Prices rose in nine cities in January over December while falling in eight. Prices were unchanged in the remaining three. December data were revised, showing prices rose month-over-month in 10 cities compared with nine in the original report. The report showed a steady improvement in prices in the West.

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LPS: Average Home Price Up to $208K in January

In January, national home prices averaged $208,000, up 0.3 percent from December and 6.7 percent year-over-year. However, prices were still 21.4 percent below their June 2006 peak. Among metro areas, Atlanta experienced the biggest monthly increase at 1.7 percent, while Phoenix followed with a 1.2 percent gain. Three other metros in the top five were San Jose (+1.2 percent); Hilton Head, South Carolina (1.1 percent); and Baltimore (1.1 percent).

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360 Mortgage Group Announces New Wholesale Account Executives

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360 Mortgage Group, a privately owned mortgage banker based in Austin, Texas, announced the hiring of Kim Bessette and Jennifer Warthen. The two new wholesale account executives will focus their efforts on supporting the mortgage broker communities in Florida and California, respectively.

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Wells Fargo Ranked Top Originator for Commercial/Multifamily Mortgages

Wells Fargo has another jewel to add to its crown: The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) ranked the bank as the top commercial/multifamily mortgage originator for 2012. Among other categories: Bank of America Merrill Lynch was the top originator for commercial bank loans, while Red Mortgage Capital, LLC was No. 1 for loans guaranteed by Ginnie Mae or the Federal Housing Administration. Cohen Financial was the top originator for specialty finance.

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