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Despite Low Interest Rates, Mortgage Applications Decrease

Following two consecutive weeks of growth, mortgage loan application volume fell 1.9 percent for the week ending March 12, 2010, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported Wednesday. The slump in mortgage application volume was surprisingly accompanied by a week-to-week drop in interest rates.

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Treasury Report Shows Lending by TARP Recipients Remains Constricted

New loans made by the nine U.S. banks with the largest unsettled government bailouts declined 35 percent from December to January, according to federal data released this week. The Treasury's monthly lending survey of the top Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) recipients with funds outstanding shows that the nine banks in the upper echelon originated approximately $36 billion in new loans during the first month of this year - the smallest total since last October.

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NAR Supports Use of BPOs in HAFA Program

The allowance of broker price opinions in the administration's Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program has created a major controversy. As DSNews.com previously reported, four appraisal organizations recently wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, voicing concerns over the use of BPOs for short sales under HAFA. In response to this opposition, Vicki Cox Golder, president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), wrote her own letter, supporting HAFA and its allowance of BPOs.

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Wells Fargo Signs on to HAMP’s Second Lien Program

Wells Fargo said Wednesday that it has agreed to participate in the administration's Second Lien Modification Program (2MP). Wells is only the second major servicer to sign on to the junior lien component since it was introduced nearly a year ago. Under 2MP, when a borrower's first lien is modified under HAMP and the second lien servicer is a 2MP participant, that servicer must offer either to modify the second lien or to accept a lump sum payment from Treasury in exchange for fully extinguishing the second lien.

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HOPE NOW’s Non-HAMP Loan Mods Lead the Way

HOPE NOW says its members completed 99,499 proprietary loan modifications in January, almost double that of the 50,364 permanent mods finalized under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) industry-wide during the same month. Although HOPE NOW is seeing substantial success with non-HAMP modifications, the organization is also taking a lead in helping servicers collect borrowers' documents at its localized outreach events, in order to speed the process of converting trial HAMP mods to permanent status.

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Loan Resolution Corp. Adding 100 Employees to Meet HAFA Demand

Loan Resolution Corporation announced Tuesday that the company is adding 100 positions this month to meet the marketplace's growing demand for short sales - demand that is expected to intensify even further when the government's Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program takes effect in April and short sales become a mandate in servicers' waterfall of loss mitigation options.

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Dodd’s Reform Bill Faces Criticism from Industry Groups

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd has introduced new reform legislation that would create a new independent agency to set the rules for mortgages and place tight restrictions on how large lenders conduct their business. Even though he lacks bipartisan support for the bill, Dodd says he's moving forward to reach a compromise that can be passed. But already, mortgage industry groups are voicing their concerns with the reform package - the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in particular.

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Fed Holds Key Interest Rate Near Zero

The Federal Reserve offered the same guarded outlook and careful phrasing that the markets have been hearing for several months when its board members emerged from their meeting Tuesday. The committee voted to hold its benchmark federal funds interest rate at 0 to 0.25 percent. And although some analysts are growing uneasy with the Fed's pledge of indefinitely low rates, policymakers reasserted that ""economic conditions will warrant exceptionally low levels for an extended period."" The central bank also stuck by its plan to cease purchases of mortgage bonds at the end of this month.

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Five Star Announces Move into Commercial

The Five Star Institute (FSI) is carving out its place in the commercial real estate sector. FSI is hosting its first-ever Commercial Default 360 conference, from April 5-7 in Dallas, Texas. The conference provides a forum for mortgage default servicing professionals to collaborate with key asset stakeholders from the commercial real estate sector, to address the challenges the market faces in the wake of rising delinquencies, complex commercial mortgage restructurings, looming foreclosures, and swollen portfolios of repossessed assets.

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Failed Bank Exec First to be Charged with TARP Fraud

Over the weekend, regulators closed down Manhattan's Park Avenue Bank, citing ineffective management and inadequate capital. And on Monday morning, the failed bank's former president and chief executive, Charles J. Antonucci Sr., found himself in handcuffs - the first person to be charged by the federal government with defrauding the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

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