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The number of foreclosure starts fell about 11.4% in January from a month earlier, but delinquency rates rose slightly because many lenders are moving loans out of foreclosure and back into the seriously delinquent category, according to Lender Processing Services (LPS). The company's most-recent Mortgage Monitor also shows foreclosure timelines continue to climb with the average loan in foreclosure has been absent any payment for more than 500 days. Some 28% of loans in foreclosure haven't had a payment in more than two years. The loan-level database of LPS tracks more than 36.2 million mortgages. The Jacksonville, Fla., firm said there were about 230,000 foreclosure starts in January, which is down 20% from a year earlier. The delinquency rate rose less than 1% in January to 8.9% from the month before but is 18.8% lower than the nearly 11% rate recorded in January 2010, according to data from LPS Applied Analytics. There are more than 6.9 million mortgage loans in arrears with about 4.3 million more than 90-days late or in foreclosure. In early February, analysts at both DBRS and Standard & Poor's said the shadow inventory of distressed properties will push foreclosures to record levels in 2011. While the volume of foreclosure starts continues to wane, the number of repeat foreclosures are becoming more frequent. Loans in foreclosure outnumber foreclosure sales 25 to one, although that is somewhat attributable to the moratoria enacted last fall in all 50 states. Foreclosure starts outpace sales almost three to one, according to LPS data. The company said mortgage refinancing activity declined significantly in January, as rising interest rates and several months of strong refi volume "reduced remaining opportunities." This also led to declines in prepayment speeds across all credit scores, LPS said. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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