A look at stories across HousingWire’s weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues:
A lot of housing and macroeconomic data came in higher than expected so far in 2012, and that could continue this week. Sales of new and existing homes in January came in stronger than they have in months, while jobless claims have fallen steadily this year and indications on consumer sentiment show Americans may be ready to begin buying properties again.
The National Association of Realtors reports pending home sales for January early Monday. Pending home sales fell 3.5% in December after climbing to the highest level in 19 months in November. Analysts project an increase of 1.5% for the first month of the year.
The latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price indices come Tuesday. For November, the ratings agency’s 20-city composite and 10-city index both declined 1.3% from a month earlier. The larger, benchmark index drop 3.7% from November 2010 and the 10-city index was 3.6% lower than the year earlier.
S&P said the indices are one-third lower than the peak of 2006 and home prices are now at levels last seen in the middle of 2003. Analysts expect the closely watched index to drop another 3.7% in January from the year earlier with slight declines from the prior month.
Covered bonds helped European housing markets escape the bust the American market endured, according to Financial Times.
“The search for fees trumped the traditional focus on long-term performance, helping fuel the housing bubble and triggering the credit crisis,” according to the FT article.
One analyst said the centuries-old financing technique for banks is more transparent, more investor-friendly and less complex than the mortgage-backed securities market in the U.S. There is a bill to establish a covered bond market stateside working its way through the Senate and may get to a vote this year.
American banks may be able to raise between $400 billion and $500 billion through covered bonds, one analyst told the FT.
The Occupy Wall Street movement keeps rearing its head despite being run out of most of the encampments that sprung up across the country the past few months. On Saturday, dozens of protestors showed up in front of the San Francisco home of John Stump, chairman and CEO of banking giant Wells Fargo (WFC).
The San Francisco Business Times reports one protestor claims “a fraudulent appraisal meant her Reno house was $243,000 under water on the day she took out her Wells Fargo mortgage.”
The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance closed the Central Bank of Georgia in Ellaville, Ga., last week.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation signed an agreement with Ameris Bank of Moultrie, Ga., to assume all of the $266.6 million of deposits and most of the nearly $279 million in assets of the five branches of Central Bank of Georgia.
As HousingWire reported in its February magazine, the Peach State has had more banks fail over the past few years than any other state. With the latest failure, Georgia has almost seen almost 80 banks close up shop in the state since 2008.
The FDIC became receiver of the Home Savings of America closed Friday in Little Falls, Minn. But the FDIC was unable to find a buyer and will mail depositors a check for their insured money held by the shuttered bank.
At Dec. 31, Home Savings of America had $434.1 million in total assets and $432.2 million in total deposits. Regulators will work to establish how much of those amounts are fully insured.
The FDIC estimates a cost of $106.3 million to its deposit insurance fund from the two failures.