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Personal Finance News 01/2012



Bloated banks cut back on one-week ECB loans (Reuters)
Reuters - Banks cut their intake of one-week European Central Bank funding by just under 15 billion euros on Tuesday, as they continued to readjust their borrowing needs having recently gorged themselves on the ECB's first ever offering of three-year cash.

Darden's Olive Garden Needs Some Spicing Up (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Full-service restaurant operator Darden Restaurants came out with second-quarter results that were below analyst expectations. The company has been struggling over the past year with its largest restaurant chain, Olive Garden. Let's take a closer, Foolish look at what's cooking with Darden.

JPMorgan sued for $95 million over mortgage securities (Reuters)
Reuters - JPMorgan Chase & Co has been sued for $95 million by the trustee for securities marketed in 2005 by the former Bear Stearns Cos over alleged misrepresentations regarding the underlying mortgage loans.

No More Public Charitable Contributions Tax Credits for Michigan (ContributorNetwork)
ContributorNetwork - As of New Year's Day, residents of Michigan can no longer claim charitable contributions to homeless shelters, food banks, community foundations, public universities or other nonprofits on their state income tax, says CBS Detroit. As part of the Public Act 38 budget cuts package, Gov. Rick Snyder repealed Section 261 of the Michigan Individual Income Tax Act, eliminating charitable giving credits. Here's information about these changes.

MBIA fraud case vs. BofA's Countrywide gets boost (Reuters)
Reuters - A New York state judge made it easier for the bond insurer MBIA Inc to pursue its $1.4 billion lawsuit accusing Bank of America Corp's Countrywide Financial unit of fraudulently inducing it to insure risky mortgage-backed securities.

SEC sues life settlements firm, alleges deception (AP)
AP - Federal securities regulators have sued a Texas-based provider of so-called "life settlements," accusing it and three top executives of defrauding shareholders by overvaluing the life insurance policies it buys from its customers.

Mortgage demand fell at year-end, purchases sag (Reuters)
Reuters - Demand for loans to buy homes and refinance mortgages slid in the final week of 2011, even as mortgage rates dipped, an industry group said on Wednesday.

How consumer financial watchdog will expand powers (AP)
AP - With its first chief now in place, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will start enforcing rules aimed at reining in abusive mortgage servicers, student lenders and payday-loan companies.

Cheapest personal loan rates drop to lowest level in four years as M&S Money ...
Cheapest personal loan rates drop to lowest level in four years as M&S Money ...

Mortgage rates for the past 52 weeks, at a glance (AP)
AP - Mortgage rates for the past 52 weeks, at a glance

Md. AG announces mortgage rate settlement (AP)
AP - Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has announced an agreement with Wells Fargo relating to allegedly deceptive marketing of adjustable rate mortgages written by companies it acquired in 2008.

30-year mortgage rate falls to 3.9 percent
30-year mortgage rate matches record set two weeks ago, says mortgage giant Freddie Mac. But low 30-year mortgage rate has not provided much boost to home sales or refinancings so far. By Derek Kravitz, AP Business Writer / January 7, 2012 This 2011 ...

Raskin says Fed will fine mortgage servicers (Reuters)
Reuters - Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin on Saturday said the Fed must impose monetary penalties on banks who entered into an April agreement with regulators over how to fix problems in their mortgage servicing businesses.

First Person: What My College Degree Means to Me (ContributorNetwork)
ContributorNetwork - *Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

Credit score focus of new celeb-backed debit card (AP)
AP - Personal finance media personality Suze Orman is thinking big. She's the first out of the gate in the fast-growing prepaid debit card market with a card that aims to help its users build a credit score. It's a gamble that could pay off, if it can help create a way measure the creditworthiness of millions who function outside the traditional financial system.

Walmart's "free" offer could come with a price (Reuters)
Reuters - As tax season begins, a decision by Wal-Mart Stores Inc to offer some free and discounted tax preparation in conjunction with its check-cashing services at more than 3,000 U.S. stores is less about giving back and more about bringing in, experts cautioned.

Consumer credit surges by most since 2001 (Reuters)
Reuters - Consumer credit surged 10 percent in November, its biggest jump in a decade in a positive signal for the economy as consumers tapped their credit cards and the government doled out more student loans.

Consumer borrowing surges as economy improves (AP)
AP - Americans are feeling confident enough in the economy to go back to a time-honored tradition — taking on a little extra debt.

DoJ contacting additional banks on mortgage deal (Reuters)
Reuters - As the government nears a deal with top banks to resolve mortgage abuses, the Justice Department has begun reaching out to other banks to gauge their interest in joining the wide-ranging settlement, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Consumer credit surges by most since 2001 (Reuters)
Reuters - U.S. consumer credit surged 10 percent in November, its biggest jump in a decade in a positive signal for the economy as consumers tapped their credit cards and the government doled out more student loans.

Index funds, ETFs gain popularity as 401k options (AP)
AP - Investors are becoming more price conscious. In response to the increased pressure to lower 401(k) costs, alternatives to traditional mutual fund investments that offer significantly lower fees are growing in popularity.

MetLife says exits forward mortgage business (Reuters)
Reuters - MetLife will shut down its mortgage operations, the largest U.S. life insurer said on Tuesday, giving up on the unit three months after it said it would seek a buyer.

Fannie Mae CEO to leave after successor chosen (Reuters)
Reuters - Government-controlled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which is at the center of a fight over housing policy, said on Tuesday Chief Executive Michael Williams was stepping down.

CEO who led Fannie after gov't takeover to quit (AP)
AP - The executive who was appointed to lead mortgage giant Fannie Mae in 2009 after the federal government seized the company plans to step down as its CEO.

Fannie Mae CEO to leave after successor chosen (Reuters)
Reuters - Fannie Mae Chief Executive Michael Williams said on Tuesday he was stepping down from the government-controlled mortgage firm, which is at the center of a fight over how to reduce foreclosures.

Mortgage applications picked up last week: MBA (Reuters)
Reuters - Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose in the first week of the year as demand for both purchases and refinancing perked up, an industry group said on Wednesday.

Net state tax receipts in Neb. ticked up in Dec. (AP)
AP - Nebraska's net state tax receipts were 3 percent higher than expected in December, boosted by sales and income tax collections that surpassed forecasts.

Region Financial's Morgan Keegan May Finally Be Sold (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Regions Financial's (NYSE: RF - News) money-raising attempts at last seem to be bearing fruit with news that the company is close to striking a deal for its investment banking arm.

Did Lloyds Deceive Shareholders? (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Remember the court scene in the movie A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise (as Lt. Daniel Kaffee) tells Jack Nicholson quite blatantly: "I want the truth!"? I can imagine shareholders in the place of Cruise, demanding the truth from management when firms misled them. The bank under question now is British stalwart Lloyds (NYSE: LYG - News), which is being sued by U.S. shareholders who claim the bank misled them when it took over fellow lender HBOS during the financial crisis of 2008. Lloyds has had quite a forgettable 2011, and this news comes as quite a setback at the very start of the new year. ...

Watchdog: Growing IRS workload hurting taxpayers (AP)
AP - The Internal Revenue Service can't keep up with surging tax cheating and isn't sufficiently collecting revenue or helping confused taxpayers because Congress isn't giving it enough money to do its job, a government watchdog said Wednesday.

House Democrats want new housing regulator (Reuters)
Reuters - More than two dozen House Democrats called on Wednesday for President Barack Obama to unseat the acting regulator of housing finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying he has failed to take steps that would aggressively address the nation's housing crisis.

Gov. Quinn Signs Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit Bill (ContributorNetwork)
ContributorNetwork - According to the Associated Press, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new bill into law Tuesday that expands the state's earned-income tax credit. The tax credit aims to help working and poor families by increasing it from 5 percent of the federal credit to 7.5 percent next year and 10 percent the next year.

Pep Boys Cranks It Up (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Last month, auto part store Pep Boys -- Manny, Moe & Jack (NYSE: PBY - News) saw its third-quarter net income rise 23%, helped by better tire and service sales. This quarter was also the 11th straight quarter in which the company from Philly improved profitability on a year-over-year basis. In a way, the recession in the U.S. has helped auto part retailers' record better sales.

Why Brand Value Still Matters (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - PVH's (NYSE: PVH - News) 2010 acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger turned out to be a good long-term prospect. PVH posted a handsome growth in profits in its third quarter, spurred mainly by Tommy's international sales.

Mortgage rates for the past 52 weeks, at a glance (AP)
AP - Mortgage rates for the past 52 weeks, at a glance

RI unions push for income tax hike on wealthy (AP)
AP - Rhode Island union leaders say state lawmakers should raise income taxes on the state's highest earners to reverse years of budget cuts.

Gov. Quinn Signs Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit Bill (ContributorNetwork)
ContributorNetwork - According to the Associated Press, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new bill into law Tuesday that expands the state's earned-income tax credit. The tax credit aims to help working and poor families by increasing it from 5 percent of the federal credit to 7.5 percent next year and 10 percent the next year.

NY using $1 million for foreclosure prevention (AP)
AP - Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office will use $1 million from a settlement to fund legal help for New York homeowners in foreclosure or facing an imminent threat.

Exclusive: Angelides to lead distressed mortgage firm (Reuters)
Reuters - Phil Angelides, formerly the chairman of a federal commission who led investigations into why the financial markets collapsed, is heading an investment group that hopes to "do a good thing" for America while turning a profit from the wreckage of the housing market.

Sainsbury's Finance reveals new personal loan rate
Sainsbury's Finance has launched a range of rewards for its personal loan customers that make its product the best on the market in terms of payback. The Co-operative Bank has reduced the rates charged on all personal loans between £7500 and £25000 by ...

DOJ steps up ratings probe: report (Reuters)
Reuters - The Justice Department has stepped up its investigation of Standard & Poor's mortgage bond ratings during the financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Google Takes a Bite Out of the Travel Pie (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - The beauty of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG - News) lies in its constant effort to reinvent itself since its launch way back in 1998, as it powers its way into new avenues of revenue generation. But what began as, and still is, essentially a search engine has now emerged as an overpowering market competitor for some.

Wells Fargo net rises on deposits, lending growth (AP)
AP - A steadier mortgage business, higher commercial lending and an increase in deposits lifted Wells Fargo & Co.'s fourth-quarter profit by 20 percent.

Why Vera Bradley Has Reason to Be Cautious (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - Women's accessory maker Vera Bradley's (Nasdaq: VRA - News) strong third-quarter results came in as a pleasant surprise and may actually lead you to think there is still room for discretionary spending, even in this glum economic scenario.

New Jersey governor wants all tax brackets cut by 10 percent (Reuters)
Reuters - All New Jersey income tax brackets should be cut 10 percent, Governor Chris Christie proposed on Tuesday, saying the state was on the comeback trail due to harsh budget measures taken last year.

Romney may not release tax returns until April (Reuters)
Reuters - Republican Mitt Romney acknowledged Tuesday that his income tax rate is "probably closer to 15 percent than anything," suggesting that one of the wealthiest people to ever run for president pays a much lower rate than most Americans.

Democrat seeks GOP names on Countrywide VIP loan list (Reuters)
Reuters - The top Democratic member of a congressional oversight panel turned up the heat on its Republican chairman on Tuesday to identify the four GOP lawmakers who got special treatment in the controversial "Friends of Angelo" mortgage program run by the now-defunct Countrywide Financial Corp.

Mortgage applications surge on refinancing demand: MBA (Reuters)
Reuters - Applications for home mortgages surged more than 20 percent last week, fueled by a wave of refinancing demand as interest rates dropped, an industry group said on Wednesday.

Romney urged by ally Christie to release tax return (Reuters)
Reuters - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a key ally of Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, on Wednesday joined Romney's rivals in urging the candidate to release his income tax forms after he said he pays roughly a 15 percent tax rate.

A Semiconductor Stock to Stay Away From This Year (The Motley Fool)
The Motley Fool - When I wrote about Veeco Instruments (Nasdaq: VECO - News) last month, I had said that terrible times are in the offing for this semiconductor equipment provider. The company's stock has continued its downward journey since then, and to top it all, Veeco has left its investors poorer by some 52% this year as almost all of its businesses took a hammering.



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