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Personal Finance News 12/2008

RBS to give struggling homeowners more time to pay (AP)
AP - Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC said Monday it would give homeowners who miss mortgage payments at least six months before starting repossession action — double the three months it used to give.

General Growth Properties gets loan reprieve (AP)
AP - General Growth Properties Inc. has received a two-week extension on mortgage loans totaling $900 million, as the troubled shopping mall owner works to stave off bankruptcy and negotiate longer-term extensions with lenders.

Investors sue Countrywide to force loans purchase (Reuters)
Reuters - A group of bond investors sued Bank of America -owned Countrywide Financial on Monday demanding that Countrywide buy every mortgage loan for which it agrees to reduce payments under a predatory lending settlement deal.

TransUnion: 3Q mortgage delinquencies shoot higher (AP)
AP - The percentage of people who are two months behind on their mortgages shot up in the third quarter from the same period last year, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion LLC.

Beazer loss widens on housing market deterioration (Reuters)
Reuters - Beazer Homes USA posted a wider quarterly loss on Tuesday, citing a further deterioration of the U.S. housing market due to lower consumer confidence levels and reduced access to mortgage financing.

Investor Sues to Block Mortgage Modifications (BusinessWeek Online)
BusinessWeek Online - The battle over the mass modifications of troubled mortgages has begun in earnest. On Dec. 1, William Frey, a private investor in mortgage-backed securities, filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court alleging that the proposed modification of some 400,000 home loans originally underwritten by the defunct lender Countrywide Financial is illegal.

Unicredit offers mortgage relief in Italy (AP)
AP - Italy's largest bank Unicredit said Tuesday it will suspend mortgage payment requirements for 12 months without penalties for homeowners in financial difficulty.

Beazer Homes 4Q loss balloons as revenue plunges (AP)
AP - Struggling homebuilder Beazer Homes USA Inc. said Tuesday its fiscal fourth-quarter loss more than tripled as revenue plunged and its income tax provision ballooned.

Mortgage fraud incidents up 45 pct in 2Q (AP)
AP - Reported incidents of mortgage fraud grew by 45 percent in the second quarter compared to the year-ago period, as borrowers misstated their financial information to maneuver around tighter lending standards, industry data released Tuesday showed.

AIG, U.S. in deal to terminate some debt obligations (Reuters)
Reuters - American International Group Inc and the U.S. government have reached an agreement to clear the insurer of its obligations on about $53.5 billion in toxic mortgage debt, the giant insurer said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

Mortgage applications surge by record amount (Reuters)
Reuters - Mortgage applications surged by the largest amount on record last week as a new Federal Reserve program pushed interest rates down to their lowest level in more than 3 years, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

Northern Rock extends repossessions grace period (AP)
AP - Northern Rock, the nationalized mortgage lender, said Wednesday it would wait at least six months before moving to repossess homes when payments fall behind.

Mortgage application, refinance volume surge (AP)
AP - Mortgage application volume more than doubled during the shortened Thanksgiving week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly application survey.

Russia to buy out mortgages from banks (AP)
AP - Russia's government pledged a mortgage buyout Wednesday and announced more aid for major airlines and other companies beyond an existing $200 billion financial rescue package, Russian news agencies reported.

Obama says reviewing TARP, eyeing homeowner relief (Reuters)
Reuters - President-elect Barack Obama said on Wednesday he is reviewing whether taxpayers are getting maximum bang for the buck from a $700 billion government financial rescue package and indicated particular interest in helping prevent mortgage foreclosures.

EU businesses: states should buy company debt (AP)
AP - European Union businesses called on EU governments Wednesday to buy up company debt to ease financing and help prevent bankruptcies as the economy shrinks.

"Bottom's been made" in stocks: Legg Mason's Miller (Reuters)
Reuters - Legg Mason's Bill Miller, a celebrated value investor but whose stock picking is far off the mark this year, said on Wednesday the "bottom has been made" in U.S. equities, and forecast opportunities for strong gains once markets rally.

SEC adopts new rules for credit-rating agencies (AP)
AP - Federal regulators on Wednesday adopted new rules designed to stem conflicts of interest and provide more transparency for Wall Street's credit-rating industry, widely faulted for its role in the subprime mortgage debacle and ensuing credit crisis.

Financial industry pushes for lower mortgage rates (AP)
AP - Financial industry lobbyists are urging the Treasury Department to take steps to lower mortgage rates and help stabilize the battered U.S. housing market.

U.S. working on affordable mortgage plan: sources (Reuters)
Reuters - The Treasury Department is developing a plan to try to reduce mortgage rates on home loans to 4.5 percent on typical mortgages by expanding its purchases of mortgage backed securities, sources familiar with the plan said on Wednesday.

UK house prices fall at fastest rate in 16 years (AP)
AP - House prices in Britain fell at their fastest rate in 16 years during November, the country's biggest mortgage lender said Thursday, reinforcing market expectations that the Bank of England will later cut interest rates by at least another percentage point.

Toll loss narrows, shares rise sharply (Reuters)
Reuters - Toll Brothers Inc , the largest U.S. luxury home builder, said its quarterly loss narrowed slightly as it wrote down less inventory, and its shares rose sharply as homebuilders extended a rally spurred by improved mortgage rates.

Seabreeze's Kass favors U.S. stocks over Treasuries (Reuters)
Reuters - Hedge-fund manager Doug Kass, who successfully shorted U.S. equities this year including shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , is now buying U.S. stocks on the belief that they have hit bottom.

FDIC's Bair warns investors fighting loan changes (AP)
AP - Investors in mortgage securities who are challenging home loan modification programs aimed at avoiding foreclosures could provoke a "backlash" from Congress, the head of the FDIC said Thursday.

Mortgage rates drop to lowest level since January (AP)
AP - Rates on 30-year mortgages plunged this week to the lowest level since January after the government launched a sweeping new effort to aid the U.S. housing market.

Falling mortgage rates can't thaw other credit (AP)
AP - Rates may be falling for residential mortgages and the securities backed by them, but there hasn't been a similar loosening in other strained areas of the credit markets.

Kashkari: Treasury considering mortgage rate plan (AP)
AP - The head of the government's financial system rescue effort said Thursday the Treasury Department is considering a program to encourage banks to make mortgage loans at low rates to help revive the battered housing market.

Mortgage plan shows increased gov't role (AP)
AP - If you're looking for a mortgage, Uncle Sam may be the only game in town.

Mexican Senate passes stricter credit rules (AP)
AP - Mexico's Senate has approved stricter consumer credit rules, banning lending practices considered predatory.

Late mortgage payments and foreclosures hit record (Reuters)
Reuters - Late mortgage payments and the rate of home loans in foreclosure rose to record highs in the third quarter, threatening to escalate as the recession erases jobs and further strains homeowners, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Friday.

Home loan troubles break records again (AP)
AP - A record one in 10 American homeowners with a mortgage were either at least a month behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of September as the source of housing market pressure shifted from risky loans to the crumbling U.S. economy.

Ask AP: Bottom-up bailouts, gas pump tampering (AP)
AP - If troubled automakers and banks need government bailouts, why not give their customers federally financed vouchers to help cover car and mortgage payments — so both consumers and companies could benefit from the money?

Job losses mount as economic picture worsens (AP)
AP - Record numbers of homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments and the U.S. economy is losing jobs at an alarming rate with companies big and small slashing their work force.

Homeowners refinance, put savings in piggy banks (AP)
AP - When mortgage rates dropped to the lowest levels in almost a year, Warren Zeger seized the opportunity to slash $720 off his monthly mortgage payment by refinancing his home in Potomac, Md.

AP IMPACT: How Freddie Mac halted regulatory drive (AP)
AP - When the Washington Nationals played their first-ever baseball game in the nation's capital in April 2005, two congressmen who oversaw mortgage giant Freddie Mac had choice seats — courtesy of the very company they were supposed to be keeping an eye on.

Banks need to broaden view of risk: Fed's Kroszner (Reuters)
Reuters - Banks need to take a much broader view of investment risk as they dig their way out of the current financial crisis, and mortgage-backed securities need to become simpler and much more transparent, a senior U.S. Federal Reserve official said on Monday.

HSBC to increase UK mortgage lending by 20 pct (AP)
AP - HSBC Holdings PLC, Britain's largest bank, said Monday it planned to increase the amount of money it lends to Britons for mortgages by 20 percent next year.

College Board settles NY, Conn. student loan probe (AP)
AP - New York officials say the national association that writes and administers the SAT has resolved a two-state investigation into deceptive marketing of student loans.

H&R Block loss narrows after quitting mortgages (Reuters)
Reuters - H&R Block Inc , the largest U.S. tax preparer, on Monday posted a smaller second quarter loss, after shedding its money-losing mortgage operations to focus on its tax business.

Regulators scratch heads over housing crisis (Reuters)
Reuters - The top U.S. banking regulators said on Monday that some of their foreclosure prevention efforts are floundering and that they have no agreed plan for the future, two years into a housing crisis that has dragged the economy into a deep recession.

Former Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac execs to testify (AP)
AP - Lawmakers are poised to trade barbs Tuesday about who deserves most of the blame for the collapse and government takeover of mortgage finance titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fannie, Freddie execs were warned of problems: report (Reuters)
Reuters - Documents show that top executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were warned years ago that the firms were offering mortgages that could pose a long-term danger to the companies, borrowers and the industry, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

American Reserve Life buys Albanian insurance firm (AP)
AP - American Reserve Life Insurance Company has agreed to buy 61 percent of Albania's state-owned insurance company Insig for euro25 million ($32 million), the country's Finance Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Former GSE chiefs scolded for careless lending (Reuters)
Reuters - Four men who led failed mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were called before a U.S. House of Representatives panel on Tuesday and chided for making risky loans that fueled a housing crisis and helped push the economy into recession.

Commission urges Obama to enforce fair housing (AP)
AP - President-elect Barack Obama is being urged to strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws to ensure that the mortgage foreclosure crisis doesn't disproportionately hit minorities and the poor.

Ask AP: Bottom-up bailouts, gas pump tampering (AP)
AP - If troubled automakers and banks need government bailouts, why not give their customers federally financed vouchers to help cover car and mortgage payments — so both consumers and companies could benefit from the money?

Regulators unveil new aid plan for credit unions (AP)
AP - Federal regulators said Tuesday they are making more than $40 billion available to support several credit unions that suffered losses from mortgage securities, and will provide another $2 billion to help struggling homeowners.

Oversight panel questions Treasury on bailout plan (AP)
AP - With a skeptical tone, a congressional panel reviewing the government's $700 billion rescue package for the financial sector is questioning the Bush administration's spending of bailout funds and challenging its reluctance to use the money to reduce foreclosures.

American Reserve Life buys Albanian insurance firm (AP)
AP - American Reserve Life Insurance Company has agreed to buy Albania's state-owned insurance company Insig for euro41 million ($52.8 million), the country's Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

Mortgage fraud is booming business for prosecutors (AP)
AP - Investigations into the collapse of financial titans such as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual have attracted most of the attention in the ongoing unraveling of the nation's mortgage-backed security mess.

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