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Senate Hearing Fields Praise, Criticisms About New HARP

Lawmakers seated on the Senate Banking Committee convened a hearing Wednesday to determine just how radically draft legislation should lift barriers to refinance opportunities for homeowners and lenders. The message from those testifying: More refinance modifications would help, but beware of the impact for investors and lenders. The Obama administration moved on expansions to HARP last fall by working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency to sign off on lower loan-to-value ratio requirements and remove obstacles for lenders and servicers.

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Pending-Home Sales Leap Ahead in March: NAR

The Pending Home Sales Index rose sharply in March to 101.4 from February's revised 97.4, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. Economists had expected the Index to increase 1.0 percent from February. The index is now at the highest level since April 2010 when it reached 111.3. The index improved for the third straight month and fifth time in the last six month. The March reading is up 12.8 percent from March 2011, the strongest year-over-year gain since last July. The PHSI has been drifting upward, albeit modestly for most of the past two years.

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FDIC: Bank Failure Fund on Track to Good Health by 2018

The FDIC projects that it will replenish the hard-hit Deposit Insurance Fund on schedule, as fewer community banks fail and the economic recovery turns a corner. The agency made the projections in a semi-annual update Tuesday that also found so-called Problem Institutions falling from 844 in September last year to 813 by the fourth quarter. Requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act require that the FDIC shore up the fund by 1.35 percent by 2020. The FDIC said that the fund ended last year at $11.8 billion ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô the equivalent of a shift to 0.17 percent for the reserve ratio.

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Mortgage Applications Fell 3.8% Last Week: MBA


Mortgage applications fell 3.8 percent from the week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The trade group found that application volume waned by 3.3 percent on a seasonally unadjusted basis from the week before. Purchases went up 2.7 percent from one week earlier, climbing by a seasonally unadjusted 3.6 percent in the same vein. Refinance applications declined on the whole. The Refinance Index dipped by 5.6 percent from the week before, as conventional refis slipped by 6.1 percent and government refis climbed down by 2.1 percent.

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Exclusive: Meet the Man Behind the $25B Servicer Settlement

Parties to the landmark mortgage servicing settlement in February appointed one man to oversee $25 billion in compliance. In an interview with DS News, our sister publication, Joseph A. Smith, onetime banking commissioner for North Carolina and ex-nominee for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, lays out the role he envisions playing as he monitors funds for homeowners, states, and the federal government. The settlement monitor speaks with an understated tone about his stewardship of the historic settlement, which 49 state attorneys general and federal officials completed in February.

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Illinois Reports Strong March Home Sales Statistics

The Illinois Association of Realtors has released March data that shows the strongest performance for home sales in the state since 2007. In addition to the rise in homes sold during the month, the IAR also reported that median pricing in the state received a lift, breaking 20 months of price declines. In addition to the rise in homes sold during the month, the IAR also reported that median pricing in the state received a lift, breaking 20 months of price declines. Sales of single-family homes and condominiums rose 21.1 percent year-over-year in March.

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New American Touts HARP 2.0 for Maryland Homeowners

In Maryland, New American Funding is working to help borrowers who may qualify for refinancing under HARP 2.0. The third-party lender allows struggling homeowners to avoid broker fees through their mortgage banking services, should the borrower meet the HARP 2.0 requirements. Current statistics show that 23 percent of Maryland's homeowners are considered underwater, owing more on their home than it is worth. Maryland's high number of underwater borrowers makes it the seventh-ranked state nationally, based on the percentage of struggling homeowners.

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CFPB Goes Live With Inquiry Into Dispute Arbitration Clauses

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went live with an inquiry Tuesday that it said will help it determine whether to move on new rules for dispute arbitration clauses. As with many comment periods for new rules, the inquiry is open to the general public and financial services companies. The CFPB said that it wanted to look for answers to questions about the prevalence of arbitration clauses in contracts for financial products, the kinds of claims consumers bring against financial services companies, and how arbitration clauses impact consumers.

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Fitch Releases Report on Regional Trends, Forecasts

Fitch Ratings has released its commentary on the current rends in regional home pricing, noting that significant variability persists among each area surveyed. In its recent report, Fitch also called for the nation's housing recovery to continue at an irregular and anemic pace for the duration of 2012. Citing tighter credit standards and static levels of household income, Fitch's analysis revealed that all regions are experiencing lower prices for new home sales. According to data from Fitch, the West has been hardest hit by flagging home prices.

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