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News of the Competition (10/24/14)

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  • CUPERTINO, Calif. (10/24/14)--The rollout of Apple's new tokenization payment product Apple Pay hit a speed bump this week, as reports surfaced that customers of Bank of America had been double-charged by Apple Pay on various transactions they had made ( Oct. 23). "Today I logged into my debit card account and found that I was charged twice for every purchase I made with Apple Pay," reported Samuel Burke, correspondent for CNN . "A quick search on Twitter found other people with this same problem." When Burke called his bank, Bank of America, they told him it was a problem with Apple Pay. When connected with Apple, the tech giant informed Burke there was nothing they could do because the new technology doesn't allow Apple to record names and transactions for security reasons. Apple eventually released a statement explaining that they were aware of the issue with customers from Bank of America, but that it was only affecting a small number of users, and that a fix would be available shortly...

Mortgage rates slide further below 4%: Freddie Mac

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WASHINGTON (10/24/14)--Mortgage rates continue to tick lower, as Freddie Mac's primary mortgage market survey revealed that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.92% for the week ending Oct. 23 ( Oct. 23).

Falling to their lowest levels since June 2013, rates dropped from 3.97% last week, and from 4.13% at this time last year.

"Fixed-mortgage rates continued to fall this week after the yield on 10-year Treasuries dropped to (its) lowest point of the year," said Frank Northaft, vice president/chief economist for Freddie Mac. "Existing-home sales beat expectations in September clocking in at an annual rate of 5.17 million units, up 2.4% from August."

Housing starts also climbed 6.3% in September, Northaft said, and building permits rose 1.5%.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 2.91% for the week, which is down 3% year-over-year, while the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rate increased to 3.23% from 3.21%.

"Mortgage rates posted a very slight rebound as financial markets stabilized and tensions about the Ebola virus, corporate earnings and the global economy all eased," said a report from . "Just one week ago, as financial markets were suddenly gripped with worry, volatility spiked with investors stampeding into bonds, driving both bond yields and mortgage rates lower."

The Federal Housing Finance Agency also reported Thursday that house prices rose in August by 0.5% after a 0.2% increase in July.

Year-over-year, house prices have climbed 4.8%, the agency reported.

News of the Competition (10/23/14)

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  • NEW YORK (10/23/14)-- Residential and commercial mortgage loan servicer Ocwen Financial is being probed by New York state regulators for allegedly backdating thousands of time-sensitive letters to clients in order to deny adjustments to loans ( Oct. 21). Reports also say that even after the company was notified of the practice, it did nothing to rectify the issue. The majority of cases involved borrowers receiving letters for denied mortgage loan adjustments that were dated more than 30 days prior to arriving, according to Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York's department of financial services. Because borrowers are only afforded 30 days to appeal a denial, by the time the letter arrived, the appeal period had ended. Lawsky has demanded that Ocwen fix its record-keeping issues and respond to all requests for adjustments "promptly and accurately." If the department believes the mortgage loan servicing company hasn't taken proper steps to address the situation, Lawsky said, action to protect borrowers will be taken ...

Rates boost refis, do little for purchase apps: MBA

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WASHINGTON (10/23/14)--Low-interest rates have stirred up mortgage application activity, but only refinances have benefited so far, posting a 23.3% surge for the week ending Oct. 17, while purchase activity dropped by nearly 5%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey ( Oct. 22).

The jump in refinance applications for the week pushed the overall composite index for the survey up by 11.6%.

"Any time the rates fall in this range, people often find they are in the money, meaning they can save quite a bit by refinancing," Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans, told the Washington Post (Oct. 17).

Purchase applications have climbed 1.7% over the last month, but remain 3.6% below levels seen at this time last year. The overall purchase index is stuck at 167.7, which is only just above its cyclical low, according to Moody's.

As for interest rates, the contract rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped by 10 basis points for the week to 4.1%. Several other agencies that track and report rates have said mortgage rates have even fallen below 4%.

MBA's 30-year mortgage rate sits 29 basis points lower than where it was four weeks ago and 29 lower year-over-year.

Jumbo mortgage rates dropped by 11 basis points to 4.03%, according to the MBA, and the five-year adjustable-rate mortgage rate fell to 2.94%.

News of the Competition (10/22/14)

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  • NEW YORK (10/22/14)-- While a large majority of credit unions continue to offer free checking accounts to their members, bank customers continue to watch the fees they are charged for checking climb. reported Tuesday that Citibank will raise its rewards checking account fees by $5 up to $25 starting next year, and basic account fees up to $12 from $10. It's becoming more difficult for consumers to avoid checking account fees at Citibank, according to CNNMoney . Under the new policy, the average monthly minimum balance required to stave off fees will be reduced, but consumers won't be able to use lines of credit, mortgages, credit card or loan balances any longer to count towards the total . If consumers want to avoid fees, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate, they should look to a credit union ...

Existing-home sales tick up in September

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WASHINGTON (10/22/14)--Existing-home sales outperformed analyst expectations in September, as sales climbed 2.4% from August to 5.17 million annualized units, according to the National Association of Realtors ( Oct. 21).

Three out of the four major regions in the United States posted sales gains, however the Midwest experienced a substantial decline. Nationwide, existing-home sales fell 1.7% behind their year-ago levels.

"Though the September data show that the housing market is rebounding from the lackluster numbers in the first half of this year, it is still far from a faster recovery," said Andres Carbacho-Burgos, Moody's analyst ( ).

The West region recorded the largest gain in sales at 7.1% for the month, with the South just behind it, posting a 5% jump. Sales in the Northeast increased 1.5% in September, but in the Midwest existing-home sales fell by 5.6%.

Moody's analysts believe the aftereffects of the recession, which have suppressed homebuyer confidence, are likely to blame for the Midwest's step back.

Existing single-family home inventories, meanwhile, fell 1.3% for the month but remain 6% higher year-over-year.

The not-seasonally adjusted median house price for the month came in at $209,700, slightly below August's price but 5.6% higher than in September of last year.

All four regions have recorded similar year-over-year home price increases. 

News of the Competition (10/21/14)

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  • NEW YORK (10/21/14)--A number of global banks are now charging their big clients when they invest money in euros, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, a move that could put a damper on those large customers' bottom lines. New policy from the European Central Bank that places negative interest rates on deposits--a new rule that aims to force banks to lend rather than hold money in the central bank--are likely fueling the changes in big-bank policies. Now, when a customer--likely an investment firm, such as a hedge fund or mutual-fund company--puts money into euro accounts, the big banks that have made the switch make them pay for it. Bank of New York Mellon Corp. began levying a 0.2% charge on euro deposits in recent weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal. JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs reportedly have started charging their large customers as well...
  • NEW YORK (10/21/14)--JPMorgan Chase has developed plans to construct a massive new headquarters in New York's Hudson Yards, a project estimated to cost the big bank about $6.5 billion, according to The New York Times (Oct. 17) The facilities, divided into separate 62- and 40-story towers, would contain as much space as two Empire State Buildings and house about 16,000 employees, reports have said. A potential holdup in construction could come during the negotiation of the development agreement, as the bank is asking the city for $1 billion in concessions in the form of a lower sales tax on construction materials, job-training grants and an underground passageway between the two buildings, which would require reworking the design of a new subway station. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration don't appear keen on the idea of subsidizing a large corporation, however. "There's no way the city would entertain a demand for a billion dollars in additional incentives," Alicia Glen, the city's deputy mayor for economic development told The New York Times...