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Personal Finance News 03/2009



HSBC to scale back US consumer finance arm: report (AFP)
AFP - HSBC on Monday will announce plans to scale back its US consumer finance operations as it launches a 17 billion US dollar rights issues to boost its capital base, the Financial Times reported.

Freddie Mac CEO Moffett quits after six-month stint (Reuters)
Reuters - Freddie Mac on Monday said Chief Executive Officer David Moffett is quitting just six months after being named to the post as the government forced the No. 2 mortgage finance company into conservatorship.

Wall Street tumbles anew in early trading (AP)
AP - The Dow Jones industrial average plunged below 7,000 Monday for the first time in more than 11 years as investors grew pessimistic about the health of banks, and in turn the economy.

Moffett resigning as Freddie Mac CEO (AP)
AP - The top executive of Freddie Mac is quitting after less than six months on the job as the company continues to hemorrhage from mortgage losses and plans to ask the government for up to $35 billion in additional aid.

Head of US mortgage giant Freddie Mac quits (AFP)
AFP - The embattled US mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac, put under government control in September to avoid collapse, said Monday its chief executive will step down this month.

East Coast storm postpones House mortgage vote (Reuters)
Reuters - A blanket of snow across much of the Washington area prompted the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives to push back its schedule, including a possible vote on Tuesday on a home mortgage bill.

Budgeting secrets that can fatten your wallet (AP)
AP - It's time to polish up your penny-pinching skills. We're stuck in the worst recession in a generation and managing your money will be is more critical than ever. "Americans are mad about money right now, and we should direct that in positive ways," says Jeff Yeager, personal-finance expert.

HSBC to end US consumer lending, cut 6,100 jobs (AP)
AP - HSBC PLC, Europe's biggest bank, said Monday it will no longer write new consumer loans in the United States and will shut down its U.S. lending unit over the next five years due to the subprime mortgage market's collapse. The decision will cost 6,100 U.S. jobs.

Mortgage delinquencies up for 8th straight quarter (AP)
AP - The number of people who were late making their mortgage payments shot up 53 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 from the same period in 2007, according to data provided by TransUnion LLC.

Citigroup to allow jobless to cut mortgage payments (Reuters)
Reuters - Citigroup Inc said on Tuesday it will allow some newly unemployed homeowners to temporarily reduce payments on their mortgages.

Citigroup to lower some mortgage payments (AP)
AP - Citigroup Inc. said Tuesday that it will lower mortgage payments for some homeowners to an average of $500 a month for three months as part of a new program to help the unemployed.

Fed, Treasury launch $200 bln consumer program (AFP)
AFP - The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve on Tuesday formally launched a program designed to pump 200 billion dollars into consumer credit through the purchase of securities linked to various loans.

Fed launches new $200B consumer credit program (AP)
AP - The Federal Reserve on Tuesday rolled out a much-awaited program aimed at boosting the availability of credit to consumers and small businesses.

Treasury, Fed launch loan program, eye expansion (Reuters)
Reuters - The U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury on Tuesday extended a new securities loan program to include equipment and vehicle fleet leases and said a future expansion to $1 trillion may also include some of the riskier mortgage and debt securities now plaguing banks.

"Cramdown" bill vote expected in House on Thursday (Reuters)
Reuters - Key U.S. House Democrats have agreed on changes in legislation letting bankruptcy judges reduce mortgage debt, and hope to have a vote on the legislation on Thursday, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said on Tuesday.

Give yourself credit: Tax credits may lift refunds (AP)
AP - It may not be enough to jump start your personal economy, but your tax refund this year may contain a bit of extra stimulus. That's especially true if the national downturn has hit home.

Citigroup to lower some mortgage payments (AP)
AP - Citigroup Inc. said Tuesday that it will lower mortgage payments for some homeowners to an average of $500 a month for three months as part of a new program to help the unemployed.

U.S. mortgage demand off before Obama rescue details (Reuters)
Reuters - Applications for loans to buy U.S. homes and to refinance existing mortgages fell for the second straight week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday, as consumers awaited for specific details on President Barack Obama's housing stimulus plan.

BJ's Wholesale Club 4Q profit up on settlements (AP)
AP - BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. said Wednesday that its fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 5 percent partly on favorable state income tax audit settlements.

One in five U.S. mortgage borrowers are underwater (Reuters)
Reuters - One in five U.S. homeowners with mortgages owe more to their lenders than their properties are worth, and the rate will increase as housing values drop in states that have so far avoided the worst of the crisis, a new study shows.

U.S. Treasury launches mortgage modification program (Reuters)
Reuters - The Obama administration on Wednesday launched a $75 billion mortgage modification program aimed at preventing home foreclosures for single-unit home loans up to $729,750.

Democrats reach deal on mortgage relief bill (AP)
AP - For key moderate Democrats in the House, giving debt-strapped homeowners the right to seek mortgage modifications in bankruptcy court had to be a last resort.

East Europe home buyers squeezed by foreign loans (AP)
AP - After Ukraine's currency collapsed in the global meltdown, so did Valery Ilyin's household finances — and, he fears, his family's dream of a bigger home.

Cost cutting that counts: 10 ways to save $1,000 (AP)
AP - Sometimes it takes creativity to cut back. Whether you're getting squeezed by credit card bills or saving for a big purchase like a car or home, there are some easy ways to save big chunks of change many people aren't thinking about. Here are a few, with assists from personal finance experts Jeff Yeager and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox.

Failure worries drag down life insurers (AP)
AP - The life insurance industry is weakening, and policy holders around the country are calling their agents to ask the same question: Is my policy safe?

Housing plan aims to help 9M, but leaves out many (AP)
AP - The Obama administration's housing plan is intended to help 9 million struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, but it leaves out tens of thousands of borrowers in the most battered housing markets who won't qualify because their homes have lost too much value.

Meltdown 101: Will Obama's housing plan help me? (AP)
AP - President Barack Obama's new mortgage relief plan, launched Wednesday, aims to help up to 9 million borrowers qualify for more affordable mortgages and stay in their homes.

Lawmaker goes after ex-Fannie CEO over loan deal (AP)
AP - A Republican lawmaker is accusing the former chief executive of mortgage finance company Fannie Mae of being dishonest in testimony before Congress about discounts he received on his home loan.

British house prices plunge (AFP)
AFP - British house prices slumped by a record 17.7 percent in the three months to February 2009 compared to a year earlier as the recession continued to bite, home loans provider Halifax said Thursday.

Report: 1 in 5 Mortgages Are Underwater (BusinessWeek Online)
BusinessWeek Online - It's bad enough when the value of your house is sinking like a lead balloon. But for a growing number of Americans, their woes are compounded by owing more on the mortgage than what that house is now worth. It's called having negative equity -- the opposite of what happens when a home appreciates and a homeowner builds positive equity above and beyond his initial investment.

Mortgage Bailout: Details on Rates and Incentives (BusinessWeek Online)
BusinessWeek Online - On Mar. 4 the Treasury Dept. released final guidelines for banks and homeowners looking to participate in a new $75 billion program called "Making Home Affordable." Among the new details of the program, which is now up and running: cash payments for mortgage holders who choose not to foreclose on borrowers and new rates as low as 2% for borrowers. The Obama Administration also indicated it will seek changes in bankruptcy laws to allow judges to restructure home loans in court.

U.S. productivity plummets, factory orders fall (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. business productivity fell in the fourth quarter as output plunged at its fastest pace since 1982, while one in eight U.S. households ended 2008 behind on its mortgage or in foreclosure, according to data on Thursday that underscored the economy's weakness.

One in 8 U.S. homeowners late paying or in foreclosure (Reuters)
Reuters - About one in eight U.S. homeowners with mortgages, a record share, ended 2008 behind on their loan payments or in the foreclosure process as job losses intensified a housing crisis spawned by lax lending practices, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.

Mortgage troubles hit fresh highs in US (AFP)
AFP - US mortgage woes hit fresh highs in the fourth quarter of 2008 with more than one out of 10 homeowners late on their payments, an industry survey showed Thursday.

Financial reform push reignited by Rep. Frank (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. financial regulation reform, sidelined for months by the market crisis, got a boost on Thursday as Rep. Barney Frank laid out plans for legislation to overhaul mortgage financing, combat predatory lending and prevent credit card lender abuses.

Feeling adrift? Money managers share your mood (AP)
AP - So you're trying to save for retirement, but at a loss for what to do after seeing the market slide to 1997 levels? Don't worry so much — at least you've got good company.

US lawmakers approve mortgage relief bill (AFP)
AFP - Amid a storm of foreclosures and other housing woes, the US House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday to give bankruptcy judges power to lower some homeowners' mortgage payments.

House approves mortgage bankruptcy overhaul (Reuters)
Reuters - Bankruptcy judges could cut the mortgage debt of homeowners in bankruptcy court as a last resort to avert foreclosure, under a bill approved by a 234-191 vote on Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mortgage woes break records again in 4Q (AP)
AP - Foreclosures are spreading by epidemic proportions, expanding beyond a handful of problem states and now affecting almost 1 in every 8 American homeowners.

Financial Planners on the Couch (BusinessWeek Online)
BusinessWeek Online - Opened up your retirement savings plan lately? Forget the old quip about a 201(k). A 101(k) seems more apt. The value of your home is down. Your savings have shrunk. And for this you paid thousands to a financial planner?

Among chemical makers, Rohm & Haas a prized asset (AP)
AP - When Dow Chemical swooped in last summer to buy a much-smaller rival, many believed the more-than $15 billion offer was too high with Wall Street barreling toward an economic meltdown and the mortgage crises in full swing.

H&R Block posts 3Q profit, beats expectations (AP)
AP - H&R Block Inc. is bracing for what could be a make-or-break final stretch of this year's income tax season.

5 ways to get low-cost tax assistance (AP)
AP - Cutting corners on tax preparation costs might sound penny-wise and pound-foolish in a year when people are desperate for the biggest refunds or smallest tax bills possible. But it doesn't have to be.

Virgin's Branson says to return to mortgage finance (Reuters)
Reuters - Virgin Group will return to the mortgage market and obtain a license to operate a high street bank, the group's billionaire founder Richard Branson told the Times newspaper.

Financial Planners on the Couch (BusinessWeek Online)
BusinessWeek Online - Opened up your retirement savings plan lately? Forget the old quip about a 201(k). A 101(k) seems more apt. The value of your home is down. Your savings have shrunk. And for this you paid thousands to a financial planner?

Bill seeks stronger consumer finance protections (AP)
AP - Lawmakers proposed Tuesday to create a new government agency that could stop lenders from offering mortgages and other financial products deemed unsafe for consumers.

Startup Plans Online Wills to Protect Digital Assets (NewsFactor)
NewsFactor - Estate planning took on a new meaning Tuesday as a San Francisco-based startup announced plans to offer an online will of sorts. Legacy Locker is tapping into a new segment of estate planning by offering to manage a person's digital assets once they die.

U.S. mortgage policy draws ire from bond investors (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. mortgage bond investors are crying foul as federal policy responses to the worst housing crisis since the 1930s threaten to cripple their tenuous positions.

Hovnanian loss widens, rev falls 66 percent (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises on Tuesday reported a bigger quarterly loss that missed analyst estimates, but a federal tax refund increased its cash cushion slightly,

Germany's HRE bank faces bankruptcy without more aid: report (AFP)
AFP - Stricken German specialist mortgage lender Hypo Real Estate (HRE) could declare bankruptcy on April 24 if it does not get more state aid, a press report said on Wednesday.



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