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SIFMA’s Board of Directors Elects New Chairman

The board of directors of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) has elected John G. Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, as the association's 2011 chairman. The organization also elected 17 new board members, including representatives from such financial market bastions as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse Securities, and PIMCO.

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Home Prices Fall in Half of Major Metros on Post-Credit Sales Declines

Home prices dropped in 76 of the 155 metropolitan areas tracked by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) during the third quarter, following a sharp decline in sales after the federal government's homebuyer tax credit passed. Seventy-seven metro areas held their ground in the post-credit months and recorded higher median prices on existing homes compared to a year ago. NAR points to the numbers as improvement, considering only 30 metros experienced annual price gains this time last year.

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Fannie’s New Mortgage Help Center Combats Foreclosure in Phoenix

Counseling and foreclosure prevention services are now available for free to struggling homeowners with Fannie Mae loans in Phoenix. Fannie Mae's fifth facility in a series of nationwide help centers, the Phoenix Mortgage Help Center allows borrowers to meet with on-site English- and Spanish-speaking staff and experienced housing counselors to discuss their mortgage situations.

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Housing to Continue in Recession with Loan Volume Slipping: iEmergent

Residential mortgage lending volume will fall below the $1 trillion mark in 2011, becoming the fifth year of what is emerging as a ""lost decade"" for the housing and home financing industries, according to new projections from the market research firm iEmergent. The company expects growth in home lending to remain ""slow"" through 2015, and warns that because of the economic collapse, the pool of potential mortgage applicants - homebuyers and homeowners looking to refinance - has been reduced to levels seen in 1995.

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Trepp, Fitch Report Drop in CMBS Delinquencies, Moody’s Sees Increase

Reports from three different agencies paint distinct pictures of the rate at which loans held in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) are going bad. Two tracked declines in the CMBS delinquency rate for during October - one says it's the first drop in over a year, the other says it's the first in nearly three years - and the third claims delinquencies are still rising on commercial mortgages. Hotels and multifamily complexes claim the highest delinquency rate among property types in all three reports.

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GSE Tells Servicers to Transfer Foreclosure Cases from Stern Law Firm

Fannie Mae has issued a notice instructing servicers that have cases at the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A. to take immediate action to transfer those matters to other firms in the Fannie Mae Retained Attorney Network in Florida. By November 15, servicers must determine transfer locations for the Fannie Mae matters currently at the Stern firm, notify the new firms, and inform the GSE of the destination for the cases in question.

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Bank of America Brings Suit Against Old Republic

Bank of America says Old Republic International is wrongfully withholding payment on hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgage insurance claims on loans that have defaulted. BofA has filed a lawsuit against the mortgage insurer seeking to recover more than $160 million in damages. Bank of America says between 2009 and 2010, claims paid by Old Republic under its policy fell by 75 percent and denials persist, although the mortgage insurer markets its services as protecting lenders ""against default loss for virtually any reason.""

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Fannie Help Center Provides Free Foreclosure Counseling in Los Angeles

Fannie Mae announced the opening of a new mortgage help center in Culver City, California, this week to provide counseling and other services for struggling homeowners in the greater metro area with loans owned by the GSE. The fourth facility in a series of nationwide mortgage help centers, the Greater Los Angeles Mortgage Help Center is a joint partnership between Fannie Mae and West Angeles Community Development Corporation, major mortgage servicers, and civic and community leaders.

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Mortgage Rates Set New Record Lows in Freddie Mac Survey

Interest rates on home loans sunk to new lows this week, according to figures released by Freddie Mac Thursday. The GSE surveyed 125 lenders across the country and found that rates on 30-year mortgages are now averaging 4.17 percent, while the average rate for 15-year loans dropped to 3.57 percent. The GSE's chief economist expressed concern that although rates are at their lowest level in more than a half century, they've done little to pull would-be buyers from the sidelines as the housing recovery continues to slow.

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Washington Weighs Trimming Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction

Members of the commission created by President Obama to shrink the federal deficit published a proposal this week that would significantly scale back the mortgage interest tax deduction. One recommendation would reduce the deduction amount by 20 percent. The second calls for the exclusion of second residences, home equity loans, and mortgages over $500,000. The proposal has drawn criticism from industry groups who say now is not the time to wrench incentives from a housing industry struggling to get back on its feet.

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