Washington Weekly Update – February 6, 2017

Market Reports
Results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) show mortgage rates remain unchanged from last week. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.19 percent for the week ending February 2nd. This time last year, the FRM averaged 3.72 percent. The 15-year FRM averaged 3.41 percent for the week. Year-over-year, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.01 percent.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) reported contract signings increased in December. The PHSI increased 1.6 percent to 109.0 in December from 107.3 in November. The index is now 0.3 percent above last December.
Mortgage applications decreased during the week ending January 27th, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).  The Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey saw a 3.2 percent decrease in total mortgage applications.  The Refinance Index decreased 1 percent and the unadjusted Purchase Index increased 12 percent.  The refinance share of total mortgage applications decreased to 49.4 percent last week.
The US Department of Labor announced last week that initial unemployment insurance claims  decreased from the previous week ending January 28, 2016.  The four-week moving average was 246,000 a decrease from last week’s average.  The insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending January 21, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate.
The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Employment Situation Summary for January. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 227,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.8 percent. Job gains occurred in retail trade, construction, and financial activities.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices were reported last week. The 20-city composite home price index level stands at 192.14, a monthly increase of 0.19 percent. The 10-city composite home price index level stands at 205.94, 0.20 percent increase month over month. The national home price index stands at 185.23, a 0.24 percent increase month over month.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis Personal Income and Outlays, December 2016 was released last week. Personal income increased $50.2 billion (0.3 percent) in December. Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $43.6 billion (0.3 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $63.1 billion (0.5 percent). Real DPI increased 0.1 percent in December and Real PCE increased 0.3 percent. The PCE price index increased 0.2 percent.
The Conference Board’s Online Job Ads increased 49,000 in January. Online advertised vacancies increased 49,000 to 4,850,500 in January. The December Supply/Demand rate stands at 1.57 unemployed for each advertised vacancy with a total of 2.7 million more unemployed workers than the number of advertised vacancies. The number of unemployed was approximately 7.5 million in December.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued debt relief attorneys for collecting illegal fees from struggling consumers.  The CFPB took action against several law firms and attorneys who collaborated to charge illegal fees to consumers seeking debt relief. The debt relief operation was shut down in 2015 following the CFPB’s lawsuit against that company. The CFPB seeks to stop the defendants’ unlawful scheme, obtain relief for harmed consumers, and impose penalties.
The CFPB ordered Prospect Mortgage to pay a $3.5 million fine for illegal kickback scheme for mortgage business referrals. Additionally,  the CFPB also took action against two real estate brokers and a mortgage servicer that took illegal kickbacks from Prospect. Under the terms of the action announced today, Prospect will pay a $3.5 million civil penalty for its illegal conduct, and the real estate brokers and servicer will pay a combined $495,000 in consumer relief.
The CFPB ordered Mastercard and UniRush to pay $13 million for breakdowns that left consumers unable to access their money. Many customers were unable to use their RushCard to get their paychecks, direct deposits, take out cash, make purchases, pay bills, or get accurate balance information. UniRush then failed to provide customer service to many consumers who reached out for help during the service breakdown. The CFPB ordered Mastercard and UniRush to pay an estimated $10 million in restitution, and fined Mastercard and UniRush $3 million.
CFPB and the state of Virginia took action against Woodbridge Gold and Pawn for deceiving consumers about loan costs. The CFPB and the Virginia Attorney General alleged that the company broke the law by misstating the charges associated with pawn loans. The CFPB and the Virginia Attorney General are filing a complaint and a proposed consent order in federal court. If approved by the court, the proposed order would require Woodbridge Gold & Pawn to pay $79,000 in consumer relief and penalties and end deceptive disclosures.

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