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Contained Inflation, Debt Ceiling Woes Nudge Rates Down

Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey registered little motion among rates for the week ending January 17. The average 30-year fixed rate slipped to 3.38 percent (0.7 point), down from 3.40 percent last week. The 15-year fixed rate averaged 2.66 percent (0.7 point), the same as in the previous week's survey. Bankrate.com, on the other hand, reported more extreme shifts as markets grow increasingly nervous about the country's continued financial uncertainties.

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BofA, Citigroup Reveal Troubles in Q4 Earnings

Bank of America and Citigroup both released their fourth-quarter earnings Thursday, revealing the scars their legacy mortgage issues have left. BofA reported net income of $732 million, a significant decline from $2 billion in Q4 2011. The bank did better on a year-long scale, coming in at $4.2 billion (well above its $1.4 billion income in 2011). Legal expenses also weighed down profits at Citigroup, though the company did manage to come out ahead on a yearly basis with a $1.2 billion profit in Q4.

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First-Time Jobless Claims Plunge To 5-Year Low

First-time claims for unemployment insurance plunged 37,000 for the week ending January 12 to 335,000, the lowest level since January 2008, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists expected claims to drop to 368,000 from the prior week.

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Housing Starts Soar in December

Builders broke ground on new homes at a yearly rate of 954,000 in December, a 12.1 percent jump over November and the highest rate since July 2008, the Census Bureau and HUD reported jointly Thursday. Applications for residential permits rose a modest 0.3 percent, and residential completions rose 1.6 percent. Single-family starts rose in December to a rate of 616,000, the strongest pace since June 2008. According to the data, multi-family starts rose in December to a pace of 330,000 from November's revised 268,000.

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DataQuick: SoCal Home Sales, Prices Heat Up in December

The housing market in California's Southland region closed out 2012 with the highest number of December home sales in three years, real estate information company DataQuick reports. According to DataQuick, a total of 20,274 new and resale homes and condos were sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Orange counties in December. The month's total was 5.1 percent up from November and 5.3 percent up from December 2011.

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Beige Book Shows Expanding Economy at End of 2012

Fed

Economic activity "expanded" in the closing weeks of 2012, the Federal Reserve said in its periodic Beige Book released Wednesday, reflecting a slow but steadily declining unemployment rate and low rates of inflation--conditions the Fed said would have to be met before it raises interest rates. According to the report, "real estate activity has expanded or held steady in 11 Districts for existing home sales and leasing; eight Districts for residential construction; 11 Districts for nonresidential sales and leasing; and nine Districts for nonresidential construction."

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