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Washington Mutual Finalizes Chapter 11 Proceedings

On the West Coast, Washington Mutual, Inc., has finalized the company's Chapter 11 restructuring process. The financial institution announced the completion of its proceedings under Seventh Amended Joint Plan of Affiliated Debtors Pursuant to Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which became effective on March 19. Under the plan, WMI will begin the distribution of an estimated $7 billion in funds to parties-in-interest as related to their allowed claims. WMI will move forward with the distribution of substantially all of the stock.

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Standard and Poor’s Announces SPIVA Award Winners

Standard and Poor's has revealed the inaugural winners of its recently launched SPIVA Awards program. The new initiative is granted by S&P Indices, and the organization plans to extend the awards, which honor excellence in research on the topic of index-related applications, on an annual basis. This year's first place SPIVA Award recipients are Yuliya Plyakha, Grigory Vilkov and Raman Uppal, and the team of researchers was selected for the $50,000 prize based on their comprehensive, comparative evaluation of equal-weighted portfolios and value-and-price weighted portfolios within Standard and Poor's Indices.

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Mortgage Rates Climb as Economy, Europe Improve

Good news about the economy and better results in Greece helped reverse declines for still-low mortgage rates for the first time in five months, according to Zillow. The real estate Web site delivered a Mortgage Marketplace report that fielded 3.97 percent for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, up 23 basis points from 3.74 percent last week. The interest rate for a 15-year loan climbed to 3.16 percent, just as rates for 5-year and 1-year adjustable-rate mortgages hovered near 2.85 percent. Interest rates for mortgage loans stayed near record lows as a result of the ongoing debt crisis in Europe.

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GOP Budget Calls for End to GSEs, Dodd-Frank

The House Budget Committee unveiled a budget plan for the next fiscal year that proposes raising guarantee fees for the GSEs and dismantling the Dodd-Frank Act. Committee chair Rep. Paul Ryan billed the so-called Path to Prosperity as a measure that will slash $6.2 trillion in government expenditures over the next decade and draw down the deficit by more than $4.4 trillion in contrast with President Barack Obama├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós budget. House Republicans proposed raising guarantee fees, downsizing portfolios for the GSEs, and eventually leaving housing finance to only the Federal Housing Administration.

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Single-Family Starts Plunge, Permits Increase in February

Housing starts fell 1.1 percent in February to 698,000, compared with market expectations for a smaller decline, the Census Bureau and HUD jointly reported Tuesday. Single-family starts plunged 9.9 percent to 457,000, the steepest decline in a year, according to the agencies. The starts suggest strongly January's unexpectedly strong report was influenced by unseasonably warm weather, which pulled starts forward. Single-family starts have been weak for the past three years. Housing permits, unaffected by weather, rose 5.1 percent in February.

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Veros Hires Former Fannie Mae VP to Lead Strategic Initiatives

Veros Real Estate Solutions has announced a new senior vice president of strategic initiatives. The company recently hired former Fannie Mae vice president, Charles Rumfola, to fill the leadership position. In his new role for Veros, Rumfola will be responsible for managing numerous key initiatives in the secondary markets. Rumfola will remain based in Washington, D.C. while with California-based Veros. Prior to teaming up with Veros, Rumfola performed as Fannie Mae's vice president of single-family strategic initiatives.

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Fannie, Freddie See Q4 HARP Loan Volume Tick Up

Refinance activity ticked up for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the fourth quarter, showing an increase in interest for the Home Affordable Refinance Program over last year. The Federal Housing Finance Agency released the results Monday in a Foreclosure Prevention and Refinance Report for the last quarter. Total HARP refinance volume came to include more than 1,021,800 loans, with a cumulative rise by 10 percent for the GSEs in the fourth quarter. Of these, Fannie Mae netted 376,365 in refinance loans, a measure of 2,045,777 HARP loans it saw last year.

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Higher Mortgage Rates Unlikely to Drown Housing: Group

The potential for a lift in mortgage rates is unlikely to spell trouble for the housing recovery, according to a recent report. Paul Diggle, a property economist with Capital Economics, said in a note Monday that still-low home prices will help cushion the blow from interest rates. Mortgage rates continue to linger near record lows, with 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages hovering at or below 4 percent for the past several weeks. Waning confidence in Europe├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós ability to halt the debt crisis in Greece drives investors to U.S. Treasury debt.

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March Builder Confidence Flat As String of Increases Ends

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Builder confidence was flat in March, matching a downwardly revised February index of 28, the first time in six months the index has not increased, the National Association of Home Builders reported Monday. The builder assessment of present home sales conditions actually dipped in March, falling to 29, the first decline since last September. The outlook for home sales in the next six months rose to 36 ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô the highest level since June 2007 - from 34 in February. Buyer traffic was flat in March at 22. The drop in the index in the West census region was precipitous.

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