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A Special Thank You To All The Attorneys

“Thank you staff for helping me in my efforts with my bank. I was in a critical situation and I was needing help badly. I didn’t want to admit it, but I had mess up my situation more than ever. The staff at Ocean Legal Group fixed it all for me, but they were sure to tell me there are no guarantees in life (which there are not). Thank you.”

George W.
Jacksonville, FL

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Commentary: A Vision for the Future of Fannie and Freddie

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission recently painted an interesting picture of the future role of the federal government in housing finance in a little-noticed report issued in February. Titled Housing Future: New Directions for National Policy, the report took a view that is both long and deep—long in looking at a multi-year time horizon and deep in probing demographic and policy considerations, as well as the obvious market-based influences.

The report helped to define the gap between a healthy private housing finance system and what we have now.

The good news is that many of the elements of a healthy system seem to be just around the corner.

Lending volume The private market seems willing and able to provide capital and investment initiatives to bridge the gap if only the federal government would get out of the way by gradually reducing the share of new mortgage loans that Fannie and Freddie purchase and the share of mortgage-backed securities that the Federal Reserve holds. Interest rates would rise somewhat to meet the ROI requirements of the private sector, but given how low mortgage rates now are, the shift to private sourcing should not unduly burden the consumers of that credit.

Balance between ownership and rental A significant shift from homeownership to renting is in process. The tighter credit standards that have prevailed since the financial crisis will surely continue as private capital comes back to the market. The regulatory regime as well as market psychology will dictate that homeownership is not available to everyone.

Fortunately, demographic preferences of younger households seem to favor, or at least be reconciled to, rental to a greater extent than recent previous generations.

Mortgage infrastructure The corporate capacity for underwriting, originating and servicing mortgage loans has regenerated itself. Lenders who made it through the financial crisis intact, along with newly formed players, have worked out the kinks in the process. Through the massive refinancings of the last few years, they have funded and serviced loans, mainly for the GSEs, but nonetheless, they are gaining capacity and experience. The servicers have suffered through the growing pains of overstressed systems and pressures of lawsuit settlements and customer demands. The platforms that they have finally built seem to be robust and large enough to handle the workload.

Disclosure infrastructure While the private sector market has been practically dormant these last few years, regulators and industry groups have been busy reformulating the disclosure practices for the secondary mortgage market. Ideas about how transparency might have averted the last crisis have been the jumping off point for efforts to standardize practices and expand data access through technology.

However, there is one part of the secondary market that is far from recovered. Monoline insurance companies, which in the earlier era insured mortgage-backed securities, have almost all been forced to reorganize in bankruptcy.

Though some are back in business, they are mere shadows of their former selves. Thus, the challenge of the new era may be that of providing insurance. Bond insurance is but one form of credit enhancement, and some may think it a bit player in the secondary mortgage market. Yet, it has always been an essential lubricant for well-oiled securitization machines. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s report envisions a “Public Guarantor” that would provide catastrophic insurance to stand behind other credit enhancement as well as a tranche of private capital.

Could Fannie and Freddie be the vehicle for this insurance? Could this be their long-term role in a revised system of mortgage finance? A transition away from capital-intensive ownership to backstopping the private investor capital could be done gradually.

For all their faults, Fannie and Freddie already possess the industry knowledge, data, and systems to conduct the risk analysis that catastrophic insurance would entail. It’s something to think about.

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THANK YOU OCEAN LEGAL GROUP

“Thank you staff and more importantly the team of attorneys that helped me save my home. It was an up-hill battle and I wasn’t convinced that anything can be done. I am very glad I did though, for my home is now secure. The process took about 6 months, but it was worth the weight.”

Rodney C.
Wisconsin

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NAHB: List of Improving Markets Sees First Decline after 7 Months

After climbing for seven straight months, the improving markets index (IMI) from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and First American fell by one market from the prior month.

The index identified 273 markets as improving this month, down from 274 in March.

Although the index welcomed five new markets in April, six dropped off the list. New entrants to the list were Macon, Georgia.; Portland, Maine; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Eugene, Oregon; and Jackson, Tennessee.

The six markets taken off this month were Napa, California; Tallahassee, Florida; Bangor, Maine; Brownsville, Texas; Roanoke, Virginia; and Yakima, Washington.

“The stability in the improving markets list this month is encouraging, with three quarters of all metros tracked by our index considered on the upswing as the housing recovery spreads to parts of every state,” said Rick Judson, NAHB chairman and a homebuilder from Charlotte. “In some markets, the main thing that’s holding back a recovery is a relatively thin inventory of homes for sale, which could be resolved if builders had easier access to credit for building homes and putting people back to work.”

Only markets that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment, and house prices for at least six consecutive months are categorized as improving.

All 50 states were still represented on the index.

After strong gains through late 2012 and early 2013, David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, projects future expansions to the list will be more moderate.

“We can expect to see more gradual gains going forward as challenges related to increased demand kick in – including everything from tightened supplies of developable lots and labor to the rising cost of building materials.”

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A Special Thanks From A Client

“My name is Nicole Anderson and I recently had the extreme pleasure of working with your employee Tom McCabe. First off, let me apologize for the book I’m sure this email will eventually turn into. I will try to convey to you my appreciation for Tom McCabe’s service in as few words as possible, I just don’t see that being a few words because I’m so completely satisfied with every aspect of his service to me. I’m not sure service is even the right word. He saved one of the most important things in my life other than my family, and that is my family’s home. It’s so much more than just what he did, it’s how he did it.

I wanted to take the time to let you know what an exceptional employee you have in Tom, as I’m sure you are no doubt already aware. My husband and I had went through several other companies to try to get our mortgage modified and to not be foreclosed on. After sending them the information I’d go weeks or even a month or so without hearing anything from them. Once they got our money that is. They’d talk to me all day until they got my money. That is the total opposite of the service I received from Tom. I actually spoke with him a lot more AFTER I paid then I did before which is how it should be! He checked in with me at LEAST once a week, at least! He’d send me an email just to say that it’s still under review, and he’d give me a time frame of when the next step would happen and what that next step was. He’d even send an email if he hadn’t heard anything, just to say hey, I’m still working this. And if he hadn’t heard anything after a while he’d call them just to get the information to update me! I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air it’s been! To receive weekly updates, to have your emails answered right away. I swear to you, there were days I’d email him and it’s like he was there just to serve me and me alone. He’d answer me within minutes. The normal turn around was a few hours but there were times it was within minutes..I mean even a few hours is exceptional but minutes is unheard of to me. Not to mention the dumb questions I would ask him, and he’d answer me like he’d had the same question himself, never making me feel like an idiot, and trust me, I can be pretty dense sometimes, especially with mortgages. Give me something about health insurance and I’m you girl, but he always made me feel comfortable and never dumb.

His level of kindness, patience, and understanding was something I’d never received before from any other company or their representatives. My husband spent several days on and off in the hospital while we were going through this process, plus my entire household had the flu which had me off work a week and because of that I didn’t always get to answer his emails as fast as he mine. I also didn’t always get things faxed to him as fast as I’m sure he would have liked but he was extremely patient with us. He made sure I knew what was the last day I could get the information to him to not mess up my chances of a modification but never pestered me or bugged me about it. He just made it clear that getting us approved was his main concern and this was what he needed to see that it happened but our health was priority. We had a different experience with another company we went through where my husband was in the hospital and after paying them a good bit of money they stopped working on our case because I didn’t get an email answered to them within a day because I’d spent 24 hours in the ICU with my husband. So I know this isn’t how other people would have handled the delay. He was very understanding of my situation of having to work and go to the hospital and take care of a sick family member and not having a lot of time to do other things and he helped me as much as he could. It was so nice to be treated as a human being, and not just as a number or a paycheck. So often we forget that it’s people were dealing with, we just want to do our job as fast as possible and forget that life isn’t always perfect. Tom treated me as a person the entire time, never making me feel like my problems were an inconvenience to his perfect time table, he was completely understand of it and made me feel at ease instead of feeling like I was a problem for him.

I also have to mention his level of knowledge. If only I’d be half as smart as he J. I’m sure as perfect as he is you have to be aware of it, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t let you know how great I think he is, and how wonderful I was treated by him. He is a HUGE asset to your company and anyone that has the pleasure to receive his services are truly fortunate. He told me exactly what to send in to get this modification approved. Nothing more, nothing less. Tom knows what I’m referring to, the back and forth with the checking account information because my name wasn’t first on it and wasn’t on the statements at all. This was so confusing to me, but Tom knew just how to explain it to me, in a very detailed and lengthy email that he had to have spent a lot of time on. I trusted in what he said and did as he said to do and it worked! Had I done what I had first intended to do without his explanation we would have most likely been denied or at best still be sending in documentation for their review. Thank you for this Tom! You were 100% right! Of course you were, I didn’t mean that to sound like a surprise to me, I knew he was right J it just took him an hour of writing me an email for me to understand it! His level of patience had to certainly be tested that day, although I’d never have known it from his reaction. Not once did he get smart or rude when I questioned him about this. When others would have been irate for me questioning them about something they do on a daily basis, he was professional and personable and very detailed but most importantly RIGHT! Way to go TOM, that was our first victory! The second being when we received the approval for the loan mod. You truly are a master at your trade! Thank you for knowing all that you do!

I will be referring as many people as I come across that need similar help to your company and specifically to Tom. I’m not sure if you can ask for a specific person to work your case when you start the process but don’t be surprised to hear people asking for him by name. I’ve already told many of my coworkers and family how great my experience was with Tom and your company.

And yes, I have to tell you he was able to get my loan modified and the amount lowered and most importantly out of foreclosure! And some people would say that’s why I’ve been singing his praises, but even if he was unable to get our loan modified I would still be telling them how exceptional his level of total customer service was! My job is mainly providing customer service to Doctors and their office staff calling to obtain authorizations for medical services, and I’ve done this for almost 12 years. Having done this job for so long I feel like I know how important good customer service is and the lack of it in this day and age. I pride myself in giving the best customer service I am able to and I know how hard this can be sometimes, especially with difficult and irate callers or to callers that are not too knowledgeable of health insurance or the authorizations process. Which makes Toms level of service so outstanding because I was one of those not to knowledgeable and difficult people! We have a goal at my job of a “one call resolution” meaning after just one phone call the customers’ needs are met and the issue resolved…Tom definitely meets that criteria. It was actually a few phone calls, a bunch of fax’s, and a lot of emails(mainly emails he would send me). But I feel like after he took over my case it was a done deal. I was in extremely capable hands and didn’t worry for a moment that it wouldn’t happen.

I feel like I’m rambling now, but I wanted to be sure to convey to you how grateful and pleased I am with Tom and wanted him to be noticed for his dedication to helping people and for all his hard work. Because of his excellent work I will now be able to pay my mortgage much easier than before and be much more financially secure. Most importantly because of Tom I’m able to keep my home and the home my children have grown up in for the past 10 years, the only home they really remember living in. That was my main concern when we’d think about losing our home and when we’d receive the foreclosure notices, our children and uprooting them. It was important for us to keep our home for so many personal reasons, it was as though those personal reasons actually mattered to Tom as much as me and my family. For Tom to take on this task with such effectiveness means the world to me, my husband, and our two children who will now be able to graduate high school living in the same house the did when they started school. Sorry to keep going on and on, but I wanted you to know how much it means to us and how thankful we are that Tom helped us with something that means so much, and is so important to all of us. Thank you for having such a wonderful employee handle my case, it’s been a pure pleasure to know him.

Tom, I wanted you to personally know that the job you did has impacted our lives in such a good way, myself, my husband, Jeremy and our children, Destiny and Hoss wanted you to know how much we all appreciate the hard work you did on our behalf. You truly were a blessing to us, I hope this letter conveys that to you in the way I meant for it to, I know I sometimes ramble on but it’s only when I feel as passionate as I do about the fact that you saved our happy home! So take my ramblings as the highest possible compliment and know that because of you 4 people are still living the American Dream! Thank you Tom!

A world of thanks and gratitude to you and especially to Tom! I wish you both the best and as much happiness as you’ve sent our way! Take care!”

The entire Anderson Family

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Delinquent Loans Rolling into Foreclosure Inventory after Settlement

Foreclosure inventory seems to be making a comeback after experiencing steady declines following the national mortgage settlement, RealtyTrac revealed in a report Thursday.

In the first quarter of 2013, the number of properties that were in the foreclosure process or bank-owned rose 9 percent year-over-year to 1.5 million, according to data from the online foreclosure marketplace.

“Delinquent loans that fell into a deep sleep after the robo-signing controversy in late 2010 are gradually coming out of hibernation following the finalization of the national mortgage settlement in April 2012,” said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac.

The most recent figure represents a 12 percent increase from the five-year low seen in May 2012, but foreclosure inventory is still 32 percent below the December 2010 peak of 2.2 million.

A 59 percent spike in pre-foreclosure inventory, or loans in default and without a sale date, led to the overall annual increase in foreclosure inventory, RealtyTrac explained.

“The settlement provided some closure regarding accepted foreclosure processing practices, and as a result lenders have been reviving more of these delinquent loans and pushing them into foreclosure over the past 12 months, particularly in states where a lengthy court process has resulted in a bigger backlog of non-performing loans still in snooze mode,” Blomquist added.

While pre-foreclosure inventory surged over a one-year period, the inventory of homes scheduled for a foreclosure auction decreased 25 percent in the first quarter of this year, and the inventory of bank-owned homes was down 3 percent, according to the report.

RealtyTrac also found 35 percent of the homes in the foreclosure process were abandoned by the homeowner. The number of vacant foreclosures in Florida numbered 90,556, the highest out of any other state. Illinois came in second with 31,668 abandoned properties, followed by California (28,821), Ohio (17,367), and New York (15,212).

At the state level, a clear line was drawn between judicial and non-judicial states. Foreclosure inventory rose annually in 26 states, of which 19 were judicial. Out of the remaining 24 states, where foreclosure inventory declined, 19 were non-judicial.

In addition, RealtyTrac analyzed which institutions held the most foreclosure inventory. Not surprisingly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took the No. 1 spot after accounting for 12 percent of inventory. Bank of America’s share was 11 percent, while Wells Fargo followed closely behind at 10 percent.

In terms of increases, Nationstar Mortgage experienced a 101 percent annual gain in foreclosure inventory, the largest out of any institution.

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A Speacial Thanks Is In Order For Everyone

” I came into your firm with SO MANY other companies calling me about helping me.  I found your law firm from a mutual friend of mine that used you in the past.  I was originally confused and wanted to make sure I got the RIGHT help.  I realized that your law firm would provide me with ALL I needed in order to get my missed payments and monthly payment back on track.  A special thank you is in order to Joe Prince in your office.  He managed to hold my hand throughout this process.  I would call him and he would always be there to explain what ever I needed answered.  I can only say thank you and I am blessed to of found you.   I will definitely be referring more people to you!”

Pamela C.

Texas

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Lack of Inventory, Not Shadow Inventory, Is the Real Concern

DS News took some time to chat with Daren Blomquist, VP of RealtyTrac, to get a reading on the current state of the foreclosure market and what is expected to come.

Although foreclosures served to strip homes of their value during the housing crisis, Blomquist says foreclosures will be seen as a welcome sign this year and act as a stimulus.

While this may seem counterintuitive, Blomquist said, “because of the severe lack of inventory available for sale, foreclosures could actually fill that inventory and provide more fuel to the fire that’s been slowly building over the past year as more sales occur.”

Though, he added, “this is assuming foreclosures are being done property,” meaning according to regulation and legislation that’s been passed to protect homeowners.

Currently, Blomquist says there are still a lot of foreclosures that need to be dealt with, but the good news is that foreclosure rates are much lower for newer loans.

RealtyTrac data shows the foreclosure rate for loans originated in 2009 is drastically lower than the rate on loans originated between 2004 and 2008.

For loans originated in 2009 and beyond, the rate is less than 1 percent, while loans between 2004 and 2008 have a foreclosure rate that sits anywhere between 2-5 percent, Blomquist explained.

Even though banks may have a buildup of foreclosures that are yet to hit the market, Blomquist waived off theories that banks are holding onto the properties deliberately and the release of the properties will cause home values to plummet.

“[Banks] are not intentionally holding back. It’s because they’re being so cautious about making sure they’re dotting all their i’s and cross their t’s,” he said.

This, he added, has slowed the process down to a complete halt in some cases and a crawl in others.

As for fears the release of foreclosures will bring down prices, Blomquist isn’t worried this will happen to the market.

“This so called shadow inventory never hit full force, so now I think we’re at a point where the pendulum has swung completely the other way and the housing market needs more inventory, so 2013 would be a serendipitous time for banks to release that inventory,” he said.

Looking ahead, Blomquist says RealtyTrac is still expecting to see around 600,000 REOs in 2013 based on the number of foreclosure starts in 2012, which hit about 1.2 million. Blomquist explained the roll rate is for about 50 percent of foreclosure starts to end up as REOs.

He also says completed short sales are expected to exceed the 2012 number, which will likely be around 1 million.

The foreclosure situation in 2013 also won’t be uniform across the country, but will be on a state-by-state basis, with judicial states dominating much of foreclosure activity in the first half of the year, according to Blomquist.

Then, in the second half of the year, and perhaps into 2014, the spotlight will be on non-judicial states.

Blomquist says this will be because new legislation as seen in California, as well as Oregon, Washington, and Nevada is starting to slow down the foreclosure flow in those areas, which he thinks will result in a backlash of foreclosure activity near the end of this year and into 2014.

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First-Time Jobless Claims Up, Adding Labor Market Concerns

First-time claims for unemployment insurance jumped 20,000 to 362,000 for the week ending February 16, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists expected 359,000 initial unemployment claims.

The spike in filings—the largest in three weeks—marked a reversal of what had been a downward trend in layoffs. The report on claims for the week ending February 9 was revised to 342,000 from the originally reported 341,000.

The four-week moving average of first time claims increased 8,000 to 360,750, the second highest level of the year.

Continuing claims—reported on a one-week lag—rose 11,000 to 3,148,000. The prior week’s report of continuing claims was revised upward to 3,137,000 from the original report of 3,114,000. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell 6,750 to 3,186,250, the lowest level since July 2008.

The continuing claims data series tracks the number of longer-term unemployed Americans who qualify for regular state jobless benefits and often shows large movements, depending on first-time claims 26 weeks earlier and legislative changes to state unemployment programs.

The larger-than-expected increase in first-time claims was affected in part by the seasonal adjustment factors the Labor Department applies to account for exogenous events that historically affect claim filings. Those factors, as published by the Labor Department, will be unfavorable for the next six weeks.

This week’s report on initial claims covered the same week used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the monthly employment situation report, which will be released March 8. From mid-February to mid-March, first-time claims for unemployment insurance increased 27,000, and the four-week average of initial claims rose by 750. Those increases will be a drag on the employment and jobs numbers, adding another hurdle for new hiring to overcome.

Claims reports in the first two months of any year are highly volatile, with seasonal adjustments moving in a wide range to attempt to normalize for layoffs that typically occur in industries that staff up at year-end. In addition, reports are affected by holidays, which delay processing of claims filed electronically.

Initial claims fell in three of the first seven weeks of 2012, dropping an average of 15,000. In the four weeks in which claims rose, the average increase was a little over 8,000. This year, claims have fallen in four of the first seven weeks with an average drop of 18,500 but the average increase in the other three weeks was 23,000 suggesting employers may have done even more short term hiring for the holiday season.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending February 2 was 5,610,327, a decrease of 307,848 from the previous week. There were 7,486,681 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

According to the BLS, 12,332,000 persons were officially considered unemployed in January, which means that of those individuals counted as unemployed, 6.72 million were not receiving any form of government unemployment insurance, up from 6.41 million one week earlier.

The Labor Department said states reported 1,849,056 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending February 2, a decrease of 232,319 from the prior week. There were 2,903,219 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012.

States continue to borrow from the federal government to cover shortfalls in those funds which will eventually have to be repaid—unless Congress intervenes—with higher assessments on employers. Since those assessments are a percentage of payrolls, they discourage employers from adding new workers. As of February 15, 23 states had borrowed a total of $28.3 billion. One week earlier, 23 states had an aggregate $28.1 billion in outstanding loans to cover shortfalls. Five states—California, Indiana, New York, North Carolina and Ohio—owe more than $1 billion, which may require higher unemployment premiums or special assessments on employers in those states.

According to the Labor Department detail, also reported on a one-week lag, the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 9 were in Kansas (+2,344), Puerto Rico (+492), Virginia (+465), Indiana (+205), and Rhode Island (+176), while the largest decreases were in California (-4,830), New York (-4,401), Oregon (-2,211), Pennsylvania (-2,020), and Wisconsin (-1,670).

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Mortgage Rates Sideways To Slightly Higher

Mortgage  rates began the day in decent territory, with most lenders unchanged to slightly lower in cost vs yesterday.  Trading in Mortgage-backed-securities, which had already pulled back from their better levels late in the morning, took a sharper turn for the worse in the afternoon, prompting several lenders to recall rate sheets for a negative reprice.  While the changes don’t impact the prevailing best-execution rate of 3.625%, they do make for slightly higher borrowing costs on average.  That said, we’d emphasize that some lenders are still priced in the same (or even marginally better) territory as yesterday.

(What is A Best-Execution Mortgage Rate?)

The minute to minute market gyrations mentioned above are small potatoes when it comes to the bigger-picture interest rates landscape.  For weeks now, we’ve been stuck at the 3.625% best-execution level with plenty of lenders still able to offer lower rates for an additional cost.  The initial bothersome feeling of moving from 3.5 to 3.625 has passed, and it’s been replaced by a new bothersome feeling of indecision.  The near term future of the rates environment is uncertain in a new kind of way.

Specifically, we’ve seen underlying markets give a few hints that we might hope to hold ground here against further deterioration, as opposed to most of January where we were clearly trending toward higher rates/costs.  This “maybe” makes it tempting to float one’s rate in the hopes that the ceiling further materializes, but until we spend more time sideways (or even bouncing back lower) the recent, longer-term shift toward higher rates must be assumed to be intact.  We’d continue to stay defensive against that, looking for opportunities to lock vs justification to float.

Loan Originator Perspectives

“As we’d hoped, yesterday’s gains carried over to today with small gains in the costs I can pay for my clients.  Markets are weaker in the afternoon, but only a few lenders have recalled rates so far.  I just priced an FHA,  and paying all my customer’s costs, I could still drop his rate by 1.25%!  Gotta love that!” -Ted Rood, Senior Originator, Wintrust Mortgage.

“Remember that movie Sideways about a tortured soul who can only find solace at the bottom of a wine bottle? That’s what this past week has been like in rate markets: extreme volatility leading to rate spikes then corrections. Torturous for rate shoppers indeed. Still, we’re caught in this sideways range that’s about .375% higher than when the year began, and there are no definitive technical signals to suggest rates will drop from here. So rate shoppers are well served to lock on days like today when we’re recovering from one of the daily spikes.” -Julian Hebron, Branch Manager, RPM Mortgage.

Today’s Best-Execution Rates

  • 30YR FIXED – 3.625%
  • FHA/VA – 3.25% – 3.5% (varies more between lenders than conventional 30yr  Fixed)
  • 15 YEAR FIXED -  2.875%- 3.00%
  • 5 YEAR ARMS -  2.625-3.25% depending on the lender

Ongoing Lock/Float Considerations

  • Rates have risen moderately from their all-time lows, making for relatively increased reward for floating at the expense of greater risks of loss.
  • Rates could easily move higher or lower, and unscheduled, unexpected events can ultimately have the most say in the direction.
  • Near term risks in 2013 include the upcoming debt-ceiling debate in Washington as well as the Fed’s policy outlook regarding securities purchases.
  • Prospects For Extending The Debt Ceiling Deadline currently seem to be preventing a move back down in rate.  Passage of such legislation could further support a rising rate environment.
  • (As always, please keep in mind that our talk of Best-Execution  always pertains to a completely ideal scenario.  There can be all  sorts of reasons that your quoted rate would not be the same as our  average rates, and in those cases, assuming you’re following along on a  day to day basis, simply use the Best-Ex levels we quote as a baseline to  track potential movement in your quoted rate).

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