Fixed mortgage rates drop again
WASHINGTON » Fixed mortgage rates have dropped for an eighth straight week, but the low rates have done little to boost the depressed housing market.
The average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.49 percent from 4.55 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinance option, slipped to 3.68 percent from 3.74 percent. Both are lows for the year.
Rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year yield has been dropping as investors have snapped up Treasurys over fears that the economy is slowing.
Most people can’t take advantage of the low mortgage rates because they can’t meet tougher lending requirements.
And many who could afford to refinance likely did so last year, when rates fell to their lowest levels in decades.
Unemployment applications steady
WASHINGTON » The number of people seeking unemployment benefits hardly changed for a second straight week, stuck at a high level that points to a slowing job market.
Weekly unemployment benefit applications ticked up by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 427,000 last week, the Labor Department said.
It marked the ninth straight week in which applications have been above 400,000.
That trend represents a setback after applications had been declining all winter.
Bad weather will cut corn harvest
ST. LOUIS » U.S. food prices are expected to stay high through 2012 because heavy rain and extreme flooding will likely cut the size of this fall’s corn harvest.
The United States will have a surplus of just 695 million bushels of corn in 2012. That would be the tightest surplus level in 15 years, and far less than the 900 million bushels estimated last month.
A wet spring delayed planting schedules and will likely diminish crops by harvest time in September, the Agriculture Department said Thursday.
This followed a more optimistic forecast from the government in May, which predicted a drop in corn exports that could have replenished U.S. food supplies and eased prices.
Foreclosure-prevention carrot nixed
WASHINGTON » The Obama administration is blaming the three largest U.S. mortgage lenders for the failures of its foreclosure-prevention program. It says they’ve done little to help people at risk of losing their homes.
Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have failed to help enough people permanently lower their mortgage payments so they can stay in their homes, the Treasury Department said Thursday.
Based on those lenders’ lackluster success for the first three months of 2011, the government is withholding financial incentives that amounted to up to $1,000 per permanent loan modification.
The Treasury Department said the three lenders incorrectly determined that many people were ineligible for the program.
The lenders are disputing the data. They say the findings are based on old reports, not audits from the first quarter of the year as the Treasury Department claimed. One of them, Wells Fargo, is formally appealing the government’s decision to cut off its incentives.
ON THE MOVE
The Hawaii Dental Group has announced Puanani Crabbe as dental program manager. She will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Ho‘ala Dental Program. Crabbe has 11 years of dental industry, public relations and administrative experience, including previously managing a dental office and worked at a large local PR firm.
Hoku Corp., a solar energy products and services company, has named Jerrod Schreck as president of Hoku Solar. His has been Hoku’s chief strategy officer, development director and strategic projects manager at Nature Conservancy of Hawaii and an associate at Sennet Capital.
The Office of the Vice President for Community Colleges has announced Scott Murakami as director of work-force development of the University of Hawaii Community Colleges. Murakami was previously a director of the Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training.