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MetLife Lauds Record-Breaking $11B in Commercial Loans

MetLife originated $11 billion in commercial mortgages in 2011, making last year the largest on record for the life insurer. The company said in a statement Monday that it achieved the results by signing off on a number of real estate transactions with mortgages roughly equal to $200 million and above. It said that these include $350 million on a loan for commercial real estate in Manhattan and $255 million on a mortgage for an office building in Chicago. The record-breaking loans from last year come on the heels of a pullout by MetLife from the forward mortgage origination business.

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Pending-Home Sales Eclipse 2011 Figures by 8%: NAR

Pending-home sales shot up by 8 percent year-over-year in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. The trade group found that pending-home sales ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô contract signings for homes that have not yet closed ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô rose from 89.8 in January last year, which it indexes on a monthly basis. NAR said that the Pending Home Sales Index also climbed by 2 percent to 97 in January, reaching the highest figure since the homebuyer tax credit lifted it to 111.3 in April 2010. Regionally, the index gained by 7.6 percent to reach 78.2 for the Northeast, reflecting a 9.8-percent year-over-year increase.

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Two Banks Go Under, Lifting National Tally to 11

The lights went dark for two banks in Georgia and Minnesota Friday, with one unable to secure an acquirer for deposits. The cash registers at Little Falls-based Home Savings of America fell silent without any bank scheduled to take up $434.1 million in total assets and $432.2 million in total deposits. The FDIC said in a statement that it approved payouts for customers worth the sum of their deposits. The agency insures deposits for up to $250,000 each. State regulators in Georgia also shuttered Ellaville-based Central Bank of Georgia.

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AGA Petitions Federal Reserve, CFPB

On Capitol Hill, the American Guild of Appraisers is petitioning the Federal Reserve Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to overturn a recently adopted rule that stands in opposition to regulations contained in the Dodd-Frank Act. The AGA wrote the organization's plea based on the assertion that the Fed's new rule poses a threat to the viability of professional appraisal practice and undermines the legitimacy of real estate appraisals. The legislation in question was put in place last year by the Fed.

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B of A Ceases Mortgage Sales to Fannie Mae

Bank of America announced Thursday that it will cease making new refinance mortgage sales to Fannie Mae as the mortgage heavyweights tangle over sensitive buyback claims from the financial crisis. The bank will stop selling first-lien refinance loans to the GSE for securitization purposes this month, it said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. B of A cited "contractual delivery commitments and variances" for a halt in sales against a backdrop of legal wrangling with Fannie Mae that it called "inconsistent" with past statements from the government-sponsored enterprise.

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New Home Sales Fell Slightly in January

New home sales fell 0.9 percent in January, declining from 324,000 in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 321,000. The Commerce Department found that the new home sales from January reflected a 3.5-percent increase year-over-year, up from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 310,000. Sales in the Northeast accordingly leapt forward by 11.1 percent from December but fell 39.4 percent from January last year. The South boasted still-strong numbers on either basis, up 9.3 percent month-over-month and 15.3 percent year-over-year.

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Mortgage Rates Lift on Greek Bailout, Housing

Interest rates for mortgage loans climbed close to 4 percent this week as a second Greek bailout sowed more confidence in the investor crowd and signs emerged that housing may see an upswing. Finance Web site Bankrate.com and mortgage company Freddie Mac each released separate surveys, with analysts attributing the rise to different causes. The GSE found the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage lifting to 3.95 percent, up from 3.87 percent. Bankrate.com saw rates for the loan hit 4.16 percent, up from 4.10 percent last week.

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FHFA’s Fourth Quarter Findings a Mixed Message

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has released its data from the fourth quarter of 2011, and findings from the government organization├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós survey show that U.S. home pricing was slightly on the decline during the period. The FHFA├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós seasonally-adjusted, purchase-only house price index (HPI) demonstrated a 0.1 percent drop in pricing between quarters, and year-over-year, the statistics displayed a decrease of 2.4 percent. In spite of the national trend, however, HPI findings from the FHFA indicated that 27 states and the District of Columbia recorded a rise for the fourth quarter of last year.

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