December 2013

Pass the Bubbly: U.S. Home Prices Rise at Fastest Year-Over-Year Pace Since 2006

U.S. home prices continued to move higher in October, according to a report released Tuesday. The 20-city S&P/Case Shiller index showed prices rising 13.6 percent from October 2012, the fastest annual gain since 2006. Month-over-month gains were slightly more subdued, with a rise of 1 percent from September to October.

Las Vegas led the way on home price gains, with a year-over-year rise of 27.1 percent. San Francisco home prices were close behind, up 24.6 percent.

Housing Market In Trouble? Pending Home Sales Disappoint

Pending home sales rose less than forecast last November, in a further indication that rising interest rates are taking the wind out of the housing recovery. The National Association of Realtors(NAR) said today that pending home sales increased a mere 0.2 percent last month, after dropping 1.2 percent in October. Economists had expected pending sales to rise by at least 1.0 percent.


Ohio Raises Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements

Auto insurance requirements in Ohio are changing in a big way this week. A new state law doubles the minimum levels of coverage that Buckeye drivers have to carry to be legal. Most experts say the move is long overdue – it’s the first increase to the minimums since 1969.

Auto insurance policies issued in Ohio must now provide minimum coverage of $25,000 per driver, $50,000 for multi-person claims and $25,000 for property damage. The new requirements are double their previous amounts.

Over One Million Workers Set to Lose Jobless Benefits

Over 1.3 million Americans are scheduled to lose their unemployment benefits this weekend, as federal emergency funding for the program expires. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are under pressure to extend the jobless benefits program when the House and Senate reconvene in the new year.

“From a human level, cutting 1.3 million Americans off their lifeline doesn’t make any sense and it’s not anything we should be doing,” said Jack Reed, a Democratic Senator from Rhode Island.


Kids Poorly Served By Maryland Health Exchange Website

Kids are getting shortchanged by Maryland’s new health insurance exchange, according to oral health care advocates. The exchange website doesn’t allow users to properly compare pediatric dental plans, and makes it difficult for families to figure out the benefits their children qualify for.

Even though children 19 and younger are entitled to coverage for a wide range of dental procedures, the website doesn’t make even that fundamental starting point clear. It’s also difficult to understand the differences between plans on the site, according to several experts.

New Home Sales Strong at Year-End

A Christmas Eve report from the Commerce Department showed new home sales falling 2.1 percent last month, to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 464,000 units. While the number came in slightly softer than expected, sales are still near five-year highs, suggesting the housing recovery is on solid ground as 2013 comes to a close.

Sales fell in the South and Midwest, but rose in the West and Northeast. Sales climbed a whopping 31.1 percent in the West, one of the biggest monthly increases in the region in more than two years.


JPMorgan CEO’s Elitist Christmas Card Causes Uproar

If 2013 was a very bad year for scandal-plagued JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, you wouldn’t know it from his Christmas card. Images of the Dimon family’s opulent, “Ralph Laurenesque” card went viral over the weekend and prompted many observers to ask just how tone deaf the brash bank CEO really is.


Auto Insurance Scams Keep Coming In Florida

Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system continues to generate scams and schemes in every corner of the state.

The latest fraud case comes from Fort Myers, where Harold John Pompey, a licensed chiropractor, was arrested on charges of submitting fraudulent insurance claims.

Between October 2011 and December 2012, Pompey was listed as the designated chiropractor on more than 300 insurance claims submitted by the Gate Parkway Diagnostics Center. Just how many of those claims were legitimate is open to doubt, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

Blue Christmas: Target Corp Under Fire Following Data Breach

It’s beginning to look a lot like lawsuits this holiday season for embattled retailer Target Corp. The company is in damage control mode following revelations earlier this week that its payment system was hacked, exposing over 40 million customers’ credit and debit card accounts. Yesterday, Target confirmed that it was contacted by several state attorneys general and has been named in at least two separate class action suits.


Mortgage Rates Rise Modestly After Fed Decision

Mortgage rates remained reasonably well-behaved following the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday to begin winding down its bond buying program. Economists fretted that a ‘tapering’ announcement would send rates screaming higher, but 48 hours after the big decision, the rise in rates has so far been modest.

Freddie Mac said Friday that the 30-year fixed rate average rose to 4.47 percent from 4.42 percent a week ago, while the 15-year fixed rate average jumped to 3.51 percent from 3.43 percent.