January 2014

Florida House Insurance Rates Finally Starting to Fall, Says Report

Miracles really do happen – at least, they do for Florida homeowners – a new report from the state’s insurance commissioner says house insurance rates are starting to fall after more than a decade of steady increases.

The report was put together at the request of Jeff Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. Last year, Atwater said he wanted to know why house insurance premiums weren’t coming down for Florida homeowners, even though expenses for insurers had been on the decline for several years. 

Millions of Americans Issued New Credit Cards in Wake of Data Breaches

Following the data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, several of the nation’s biggest banks are reissuing customers’ credit cards to shore up security. JP Morgan Chase announced this week it is sending out more than two million new cards as a precaution against the data breaches, while Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo also said they were reissuing cards to “at risk” clients.

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Rampant Fraud Pushing Up Auto Insurance Premiums in Louisiana

Finding cheap auto insurance has never been harder in Louisiana, as rampant fraud on the state’s roadways continues to drive up premiums. Louisiana law enforcement officials say they are seeing a rise in the number of ‘staged crash’ incidents, where scammers deliberately get into accidents to get their hands on insurance money.

Target Hackers Sent Data to Russia

Chilling new information on the Target security breach was revealed on Friday. Findings from the ongoing investigation depict a highly sophisticated hacking operation with links overseas. Investigators now say the stolen credit card data was sent abroad – to Russia.

The attacks came in the form of a malicious software program that infected point-of-sale terminals at most of Target’s U.S. stores. Once the data was collected, it was moved to a hacked server in the U.S. before being transmitted to a server located somewhere in eastern Russia.

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Housing Starts Stay Strong in December

Residential construction remained buoyant in December, capping a great year for housing starts. 

The Commerce Department said on Friday that construction began on 999,000 new housing units last month, higher than expected. A rip-roaring housing recovery pushed total 2013 starts to 11,080,800, 18.3 percent higher than 2012.

The number, which includes both single-family and multi-family units, was boosted by rapid growth in the South and West, and by frenzied construction in high-rise cities like New York.

Arizona Legislators Set to Increase Auto Insurance Minimums

Legislation is afoot in Arizona to increase the state’s minimum auto insurance requirements.

A new bill sponsored by Representative Ethan Orr will require motorists to carry – and pay for – more auto insurance coverage, potentially raising premiums in the process. Defenders of the legislation say higher coverage requirements are long overdue, while critics point to higher premiums and the possibility of more lawsuits.

Bay Area Home Sales Drop to Six Year Low

Low inventory and rising prices are dramatically slowing home sales in the Bay Area, according to a new report from DataQuick, a real estate research firm. 

DataQuick says only 6,714 new and resale homes changed hands in the Bay Area last month, a 12.7 percent drop from the same time last year and the slowest December since 2007.

Median prices held firm though, dipping by just 0.3 percent in December, to $548,000. Of course, prices are still up dramatically on a year-over-year basis, increasing by 23.9 percent from December 2012.

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Trouble Ahead? Mortgage Volumes Collapse

Higher mortgage rates and rising home prices continue to exact a toll on lending activity. Two of the nation’s largest banks, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase, saw mortgage originations plummet in the forth quarter of 2013, down 60 percent and 54 percent year-over-year, respectively. News of falling mortgage volumes came as both banks reported Q4 earnings earlier today.

The Mortgage Bankers Association(MBA) was quick to respond to the data, revising its 2014 mortgage origination forecast down by $57 billion, to $1.12 trillion.

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New Mortgage Rules to Take Effect On Friday

The new mortgage rules you’ve heard so much about are almost here – most are scheduled to go into force on Friday. Economists say it’s about time – after all, six years have passed since the onset of the worst U.S. housing bust in the postwar period, caused in-part by lax lending standards.

The rules, instituted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB), are intended to prevent another real estate crash by ensuring borrowers have the financial wherewithal to pay back their home loans.

Hacked: Neiman Marcus Latest Retailer to Suffer Data Breach

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus revealed on Saturday that its database of customer information was breached over the holidays. The announcement follows news from Target Corp. that an astonishing 110 million customers suffered a similar breach, 70 million more than the company’s initial estimates.

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