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Gingrich Rout Shows How Housing Remains a Political Bludgeon

Republican presidential candidates used housing issues in Florida to trump up their bona fides in separate addresses Tuesday. With nearly all precincts reporting in Florida, former Gov. Mitt Romney routed former House speaker and rival Newt Gingrich by 46.4 percent to 31.9 percent. The Dodd-Frank Act, new mortgage rules and regulation, and foreclosures all made appearances in addresses by Gingrich and Romney. Numerous analysts credit housing-related ads helping the former Masschusetts governor head off a primary threat.

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Obama Unveils New Refi Plan, Homeowner ‘Bill of Rights’

The Obama administration rolled out an ambitious package of benefits and structural changes Wednesday for homeowners who want to refinance their loans. The plan would cost anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion and pay for itself with fees exacted from financial institutions. If it makes it into law, the bill would significantly expand refinancing opportunities for underwater borrowers, shift appraisal responsibilities in distressed neighborhoods to an automated system under the GSEs, and offer new servicing reforms.

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MDC’s Board Appoints New Financial Leader

In less than two weeks, M.D.C. Holdings, Inc., will welcome a new company officer, with the announcement that John M. Stephens will join MDC as the group's chief financial officer, principal accounting officer, and senior vice president. MDC's board of directors recently appointed Stephens to the leadership positions, and his new roles with MDC will become effective on February 13.

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Cordray Fends Off Continuing Concerns, Criticism at Hearing

Newly appointed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray fended off another round of concern and criticism at a congressional hearing Tuesday even as he portrayed Congress as an important check on the bureau├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós power. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle stayed true to their parties├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ó positions by alternately casting Cordray├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós recess appointment as a potentially dangerous abuse of presidential power and as a needed solution to congressional gridlock.

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Homeownership Rates Wallow at Nearly 15-Year Lows

Homeowners moved closer to the sidelines last year, buying fewer homes than in 2010 and edging homeownership toward lows not seen since the 1990s. The Commerce Department released figures Tuesday that posted 66 percent for homeownership rates last quarter, reflecting declines by 0.5 percent year-over-year and 0.3 percent on a quarterly basis. Homeownership vacancy rates hovered around 2.3 percent last quarter, 0.4 percentage points lower than in 2010.

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Home Prices Plunged 1.3% in November: Case-Shiller

Home prices fell by 1.3 percent in November last year, slashing figures in 19 of 20 metropolitan areas for the second straight month, according to the most recent Standard & Poor├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós/Case-Shiller index. The index showed that home prices declined by 3.6 percent year-over-year, with 13 of 20 areas suffering steep declines in annual returns. It showed the weakest annual return of several cities, even while Las Vegas, Tampa, and Seattle all settled near new lows for home prices in November.

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ALFN’s CEO Resigns, Starts Consulting Group

The American Legal & Financial Network (ALFN) recently released a brief statement announcing the resignation of the organization's current president and CEO, William LeRoy. The Missouri-based group extended few details surrounding LeRoy's departure, but the ALFN did indicate that LeRoy's resignation would be effective immediately.

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Debt Crises Send Mortgage Rates Plummeting: Zillow

Interest rates for the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage plunged to 3.72 percent this week on new concerns about debt crises in Europe, according to real estate company Zillow. In releasing the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, the Web site found that interest rates for the 15-year loan also fell to 3.01 percent, alongside 2.63 percent for 5-year and 1-year adjustable-rate mortgages. Mortgage rates remain low despite uplifting news from the continent, where 25 eurozone nations signed off on a new fiscal pact Monday.

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December Mortgage Originations Down 10.1% from September: LPS

Mortgage originations fell from a peak in September last year to hit 10.1 percent in December, according to Lender Processing Services. Revealing the latest data in December Mortgage Monitor report, the company also said that loans originated over the last two years consistently showed high quality, which it attributes to tighter lending and underwriting guidelines. LPS Applied Analytics said that risk attributes stayed near minimal levels, with credit quality for borrowers averaging 750 in 2011.

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