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Consumer Sentiment Up Slightly in March, Spending Still Down

After dipping into negative territory last month, consumer sentiment inched up in March, according to the Consumer Reports Index. The index's sentiment measure improved to 50.7 in March from a reading of 48.9 in February. The greatest improvement among income brackets was seen in lower-income households earning less than $50,000--that index climbed 3.7 points. Besides sentiment, the index report tracks consumer responses on four other key measures: financial troubles, stress, retail activity, and employment.

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Cordray Faces Senate Committee for Nomination Hearing

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), sat once again on Tuesday in front of the Senate Banking Committee, this time to present his case to continue leading the consumer agency. While some had expected a contentious round of questioning from Republicans critical of CFPB in its current form, the proceedings were generally cordial, with Cordray and commitee members agreeing to work together to maximize transparency and accountability at the bureau.

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Norcom Recruits New VP of Business Development

New

Avon, Connecticut's Norcom Mortgage welcomed Frank Haran to the team as VP of business development. Haran has worked in the industry for more than 30 years and served most recently as first EVP for McCue Mortgage in New Britain, Connecticut.

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Layoffs Fall to Record Low in January

Unemployment

The number of layoffs fell 4.0 percent to 1,507,000 in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) release. The layoff total was the smallest since the JOLTS reports began in December 2000.

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Fed Governor: Consumer Protections May Come with a Cost

As the industry prepares to implement the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) new ability-to-repay rules, Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke warns new consumer protections may come at a cost to the industry as lower-quality-credit borrowers are precluded from the housing market. As the broader economy continues to improve, household formation will increase, according to Duke, "but if credit is hard to get, these will be rental rather than owner-occupied households."

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Fitch: Recent Prime Borrowers Prepaying at Rapid Rates

According to Fitch Ratings, prime RMBS mortgage pools issued since 2010 had an average conditional prepayment rate (CPR) of about 42 percent, more than twice as fast as the rates of outstanding prime loans securitized in earlier vintages. Generally speaking, Fitch explained high refinance activity tends lead to more "performance volatility" since loans remaining in mortgage pools are usually of poorer quality. However, Fitch is seeing a different trend this time around.

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Fed Governor Addresses Capacity Concerns

Capacity limits may be playing a significant role in keeping first-time homebuyers out of the credit market, according to Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke. As the ratio of refinance applications to the number of real estate credit employees rises, loans are taking longer to process as the procedure becomes more thorough. Adding to that, Duke said, is the problem that real estate credit employment has risen relatively slowly in response. As a result, borrowers with hard-to-complete loans or low credit scores have been crowded out.

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