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Average US 30-year mortgage rate slips to 4.17 percent

30-year mortgage

30-year mortgage rates slips to 4.17%

WASHINGTON/February 9, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — Long-term US mortgage rates eased slightly this week.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans slipped to an average 4.17 percent from 4.19 percent last week.  That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971.  A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.65 percent.

The average for a 15-year mortgage declined to 3.39 percent from 3.41 percent last week.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.  The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.  One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage fell this week to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.  The fee on 15-year loans also declined to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans eased to 3.21 percent from 3.23 percent.  The fee remained at 0.4 point.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cops: Woman used $1.2M forged check to try to buy house

buy house

Attempt to buy house for $1.2 million with a forged check

DILLSBURG, Pa./February 9, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Police say a Pennsylvania woman tried to buy a house by forging a $1.2 million check from a credit union.

Police in Carroll Township, York County, say that happened in January.

Investigators say 49-year-old Katherine Kempson used the internet to copy a business logo from Members First Federal Credit Union to create the $1.2 million check.  She’s also accused of writing a bad check for $60,000 to a real estate agency as part of the bogus transaction.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for Kempson.  She faces a preliminary hearing March 20 on forgery and bad check charges.

Police Sgt. David Smith says the credit union’s fraud department first raised red flags, prompting police to investigate.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Published by K Amant’s, LLC d.b.a. STLRealEstate.News – Licensed material by AP (Associated Press).

At a cool $250M, LA mega-mansion is priciest listing in US

At a cool $250M, LA mega-mansion is priciest listing in US

LOS ANGELES/February 9, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — In the exclusive Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles sits a new monument to opulence, a $250 million mega-mansion that’s now the most expensive home listed in the United States.

The four-level, 38,000-square-foot mansion comes with a seven-member staff, a $30 million car collection and an infinity pool complete with a swim-up bar, 270-degree views of the city and a monstrous 20-foot outdoor television.

It has 12 bedroom suites, 21 bathrooms, five bars, three gourmet kitchens, a spa, a 40-seat movie theater, and a bowling alley.

The mansion was built on speculation, or with no buyer in mind. And only 3,000 people in the world could afford to buy it, said Bruce Makowsky, the developer and owner of the home who made his fortune as a handbag designer.

The Associated Press recently interviewed Makowsky inside the mansion. Here’s what he had to say about why he built it and who would spend $250 million on a house.

Q: Why did you build this house?

A: “After being on major mega-yachts across the world and on beautiful private aircraft, it didn’t make sense to me people were spending $350 million on a boat, $100 million on a plane and they’re living in $20 million and $30 million homes … The homes have not kept up with the toys. So my feeling is if you’re going to spend over 12 hours a day in your home it should be the most amazing experience in the world.”

Q: What is it like being inside the house?

A: “I would say it’s the eighth wonder of the world. I’ve had a couple people come in here and say it’s in the top seven — one of the other seven could go away … Every single inch of this house is breathtaking. It’s a sensory overload. I’ve shown this house about 25 times now. People go in and use just about every adjective on half of the lower level. There’s no more adjectives. They just become numb. Every single thing in this house makes you feel like you’re in heaven.”

Q: How did you reach $250 million for the listing price?

A: “The reason it’s $250 million is because of all the work for the past four years of having 300 people inside here, the art curations inside the house. We have over $30 million worth of cars, exotic sports cars and vintage cars … We have a 270-degree view from the snow-covered mountains all the way down to LA. Seven full-time staff come with the house, which is crazy. So if you want the best chef in the world, you have her, and if you want a masseuse we have you all hooked up … We have water features that go completely around the house. We have stones from 50 different quarries from around the world, the most beautiful precious stones running through the house … I truly believe the value is here.”

Q: Why would someone spend so much money on a house, even with all these amenities?

A: “It’s the kind of thing where I can’t sell it. Somebody has to fall in love with it and die over it. And when a person sitting with $2 billion, $5 billion or $20 billion in the bank and it’s just a number, do they really want to enjoy every second of their life — because this isn’t rehearsal, this is real life — or do they just want to look at a number in the bank?”

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AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press

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This version corrects the spelling of the developer’s last name, Makowsky not Makowksy.

How stricter rules for brokers will affect retirement savers

retirement savers

WASHINGTON/February 4, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — President Donald Trump is delaying a series of rules that require financial professionals to put their clients’ best interests first when giving advice on retirement investments.

The rules, which were set to take effect in April, will be delayed for 90 days for review.

Under the so-called “fiduciary rule,” brokers who sell stocks, bonds, annuities and other products would have to do more than just make sure the investments they recommend are “suitable” for clients. They would have to meet a stricter standard that has long applied to registered advisers: They will be considered “fiduciaries” — trustees who must put their clients’ best interests above all.

Full compliance originally was required by January 2018.

At stake are about $4.5 trillion in 401(k) retirement accounts, plus $2 trillion in other defined-contribution plans such as federal employees’ plans and $7.3 trillion in IRAs, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Too often, regulators say, brokers steer clients toward questionable investments for which the broker receives a fee, thereby acting in their own financial interest instead of the client’s.

The problems often arise when people who are retiring “roll over” their employer-based 401(k) assets into individual retirement accounts. Brokers may persuade them to put those assets into variable annuities, real estate investment trusts or other investments that can be risky or otherwise not in the client’s best interest.

The Obama administration previously said investors would save about $4 billion annually under the new rules. The industry countered that investment firms will have to shell out more than that just to comply with the rules. Financial firms also argued that the stricter rules will likely shrink Americans’ investment options and could cause brokers to abandon retirement savers with smaller accounts.

Americans increasingly seek guidance in navigating their options for retirement savings. Many professionals provide advice. But not all are required to disclose potential conflicts of interest.

Here are some questions and answers about the delayed rules:

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BROKERS? FINANCIAL ADVISERS? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

It’s significant. Brokers buy and sell securities and other financial products on behalf of their clients. They also can provide financial advice, with one key stipulation: They must recommend only investments that are “suitable” for a client based on his or her age, finances and risk tolerance.

So they can’t, for example, pitch penny stocks or real estate investment trusts to an 85-year-old woman living on a pension. But brokers can nudge clients toward a mutual fund or variable annuity that pays the broker a higher commission — even without disclosing that conflict of interest to the client.

Registered investment advisers, on the other hand, are “fiduciaries.” In that way, they’re more like doctors or lawyers — obligated to put their clients’ interests even ahead of their own. That means disclosing fees, commissions, potential conflicts and any disciplinary actions they have faced.

Advisers must tell a client if they or their firms receive money from a mutual fund company to promote a product. And they must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, thereby opening themselves to inspections and supervision.

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WHAT DO THE RULES IN QUESTION DO?

They put brokers under the stricter requirements when they handle clients’ retirement accounts. The Labor Department under the Obama administration withdrew an earlier proposal in 2010 amid an outcry from the financial industry, which warned that it would hurt investors by limiting choices.

The rules update the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, enacted in 1975. That was a far different time. Traditional company pension plans were still the dominant source of retirement income. Now, traditional pensions are increasingly rare. In their place are 401(k)-type plans, which require workers to set aside pre-tax money but also add a new layer of risk: Employees themselves must decide how to invest their retirement money, and many seek professional advice.

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WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST?

Consumer, labor and civil rights groups have pushed for the rules. They say the current system provides a loophole that lets brokers drain money from retirement accounts in fees they receive that can tilt the investment advice they give clients.

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AND THE OTHER SIDE?

Wall Street lobbying groups, mutual fund companies, life insurance firms and other industry interests have opposed the rules.

They say the stricter requirements could limit many people’s access to financial guidance and retirement planning and their choice of investment products. They warn that that would fall especially hard on mid- and low-income employees with smaller retirement balances — say, less than $50,000 — who could be abandoned by brokers.

The requirement to act in a client’s best interest means, in many cases, that the practice of charging commissions on every trade would be replaced by a set fee for a broker as a proportion of a customer’s assets. Some brokers may decide that the smaller fees aren’t worth their trouble, opponents say.

Several financial companies and groups took the government to court over the rules.

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MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer

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Video animation explaining the rules: https://youtu.be/YPH1J1DmHvE

Old industrial building to turn into manufacturing location

old industrial building

ST LOUIS, MO/February 2, 2017 (STLRealEstate.News) A building that previously housed machines making barber chairs, and later hats, will someday soon have a variety of small to mid-sized manufacturers setting up shop in hopes to scale up in a singular location.  This special building, located at 2528 Texas Avenue in Fox Park will contain about 87,000-square-feet of manufacturing space and be known as Brick City Makes officially.  This large-scale project is trying to accomplish nothing ever done before in the city of St. Louis.

A collaboration between St. Louis Makes and the DeSales Community Development (DCD), Brick City Makes will combine different space sizes for manufacturers to work in, while also providing community programming, events, and even comprehensive access to education in the new-found building design.

The two behind the ambitious project, Marc Bowers and Tom Pickel, are confident they will be able to take the large industrial space and transform it into a highly sought after community hub.  About 75 percent of the local manufacturing companies have 20 or fewer employees, said Pickel, who is the executive director of DCD.  These specific companies need space and resources to scale up their operations without making overwhelming financial investments into new buildings.

“These companies are cash flow positive, new or established, but looking to accelerate growth,” said Bowers.  “They have to focus on the customer and don’t want to focus on real estate problems.  This project enables people to lease a small amount of space and the building to grow with them.”

This 2-acre facility will be parsed into 1000-3000-square foot spaces, which could house up to 36 manufacturers inside the building.  Brick City Makes is currently in the process of identifying companies with scalability and a higher degree of complexity to set up shop in the new community hub.

The project will cost $11 million and is funded through federal new markets tax credits, state and historic tax credits, as well as philanthropic donations.

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Contributing Editor: Alexandra R. Fasulo

Average US 30-year mortgage rate unchanged at 4.19 percent

Mortgage Rates

WASHINGTON/February 2, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — Long-term US mortgage rates barely budged this week, after marking their first increase of the year last week.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans was unchanged from last week at an average 4.19 percent. That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971. A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.72 percent.

The average for a 15-year mortgage ticked up to 3.41 percent from 3.40 percent last week.

After meeting this week, Federal Reserve policymakers left the key interest rate unchanged at a time of solid economic gains but also heightened uncertainty surrounding the new Trump administration. At the same time, the Fed pointed to improved sentiment among consumers and businesses.

Many economists think the Fed will put off further rate increases until more is known about President Donald Trump’s ambitious agenda, or whether his drive to cancel or rewrite trade deals will slow growth or unsettle investors.

Mortgage rates surged in the weeks following Trump’s election in early November. Investors in Treasury bonds bid yield rates higher because they believed his plans for tax cuts and higher spending on roads, bridges and airports will drive up economic growth and inflation.

But mortgage rates reversed course in the first week of the year, falling after nine straight weeks of increases.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage rose this week to 0.5 point from 0.4 point. The fee on 15-year loans also increased to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans rose to 3.23 percent from 3.20 percent. The fee remained at 0.4 point.

Long-term US mortgage rates steady; 30-year at 4.19 percent

mortgage rates fall - US mortgage rates

US mortgage rates hold steady with 30-year mortgage rates at 4.19%

ST LOUIS, MO/February 2, 2017 (STLRealEstate.News) Long-term US mortgage rates barely budged this week, after marking their first increase of the year last week.

Current avg Last week 52-week high 52-week low
30-year fixed – 4.19 percent – 4.19 percent – 4.32 percent – 3.41 percent
15-year fixed – 3.41 percent – 3.40 percent – 3.55 percent – 2.72 percent
5-year adjustable – 3.23 percent – 3.20 percent – 3.33 percent – 2.68 percent

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Published under a license agreement between K Amant, LLC d.b.a. STLRealEstate.News and the Associated Press (AP)

STLRealEstate.News publisher – K Amant

US pending home sales increased in December

US pending home sales

WASHINGTON/February 1, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in December.  The increase possibly reflects more people scrambling to purchase homes as mortgage rates have been rising and increasing the costs of ownership.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.6 percent to 107.3, a slight rebound after declining in November.  Pending sales rose in the West and South but dipped in the Northeast and Midwest.

Mortgage rates began to surge after Donald Trump’s presidential win in November. Average 30-year fixed rate mortgages were 4.19 percent last week, after averaging a low 3.65 percent for all of 2016.

Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases.  A sale is typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed.

In terms of completed sales of existing homes, buying activity dipped in December as the number of available homes for sale fell to their lowest level since 1999.  The inventory squeeze has caused prices to rise and potentially led more people to sign contracts in December out concerns that the number of listings could keep dropping.

The Realtors said last week that sales of existing homes fell 2.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million.  For all of 2016, sales posted an annual gain of 3.8 percent to 5.45 million.

Only 1.65 million homes were listed for sale in December, a 6.3 percent decline from a year ago.

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JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer

US home prices rise 5.3 pct. amid solid demand, tight supply

US home prices

US home prices rise

WASHINGTON/February 1, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — US home prices marched steadily higher in November, pushed up by healthy demand for homes and a shrinking supply of available properties.

The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home index, released Tuesday , rose 5.3 percent, slightly faster than October’s gain of 5.1 percent.

So far, home sales have remained healthy even as mortgage rates have risen, suggesting homebuyers are trying to lock down purchases before rates increase further. Americans bought existing homes at the fastest pace in nearly a decade in November. Yet the number of homes for sale has fallen to a 17-year low, fueling bidding wars in many cities.

Prices in Seattle jumped 10.4 percent in November from a year earlier, the biggest gain among the 20 cities tracked by the index. Portland followed with a 10.1 percent gain. Denver reported an 8.7 percent increase.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The November figures are the latest available.

Svenja Gudell, chief economist at housing data provider Zillow, said some relief from higher prices may be on the horizon. Rising mortgage rates and a leveling off of rents in many cities could cool demand for homes in the coming months, potentially slowing price gains.

The flattening of rents could also encourage developers to build more single-family homes rather than apartment buildings, which would provide more choices to potential buyers.

“These emerging trends could start impacting the market in time for the busy spring and summer home shopping season, and bear watching,” Gudell said.

Sales of both new and existing homes slipped in December after posting solid gains in November. But the number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes climbed last month, a sign that sales may soon increase. A signed contract is usually followed a month or two later by a closed sale.

Steady job growth and modest wage gains have helped fuel a rebound in home sales and prices following the housing bust that began in late 2006. Home prices nationwide began to rebound in 2012 and by some measures fully recovered to their pre-recession levels in September.

Low mortgage rates have been critical to the recovery. The average 30-year fixed mortgage fell below 4.5 percent in 2011 and averaged just 3.65 percent for all of last year. They have risen since the election as investors have pushed up interest rates on expectations of faster growth.

The 30-year fixed averaged 4.19 percent last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said, up from 4.09 percent the week before.

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CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer

HUD nominee Ben Carson details steps to untangle business ties

Ben Carson

WASHINGTON/February 1, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development has disclosed detailed steps to distance himself from business holdings and charities to avoid potential conflicts of interests.

Ben Carson filed an ethics agreement with the Office of Government Ethics pledging to resign from the board of the Carson Scholars Fund and other charities if he is confirmed by the Senate. The fund established by the retired neurosurgeon provides $1,000 scholarships to schoolchildren.

A multimillionaire, Carson said he will turn over control of his assets to a manager. He said he will resign as a managing member of his companies BenCan LLC and American Business Collaborative LLC, though he will continue to hold an ownership stake and receive revenue from them. BenCan’s holdings include commercial real estate properties in suburban Pittsburgh.

Carson will also continue to receive royalties from a number of publishing companies for books that include his autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.”

As a Cabinet secretary, Carson would be subject to a raft of federal conflict-of-interest provisions intended to prohibit him, his spouse or business partners from profiting from his position. A former Republican presidential candidate, Carson is nominated to lead a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of $47 billion.

Though he is not divesting from his businesses, ethics watchdogs said that shouldn’t be a problem as long as Carson or his partners don’t try to seek government contracts or other business.

“Carson is not required to divest if he holds no assets which conflict with HUD business,” said Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Compared to other Trump appointees, his assets are fairly straightforward: mutual funds, book royalties, rental properties and the like. As long as a HUD review finds no conflicting assets, what he is doing meets with the law.”

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MICHAEL BIESECKER, Associated Press

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Follow Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

2016 ends on a high note for St. Louis

Mortgage rates - St. Louis, MO

ST. LOUIS, MO/February 1, 2017 (STLRealEstate.News) Though it wasn’t the second hottest market in the nation as one expert had predicted at the start of the year, it was one hot year for local real estate, specifically in the St. Louis region.  The year ended with closings up 7 percent, and prices up a modest 3.3 percent. Homes sold 11 percent faster than in 2015, and the overall vitality of the market is looking strong heading into 2017.

The president of Coldwell Banker Gundaker, Jim Dohr, says a lot of things came together at the right time to make a real estate year to remember.  “You couple increasing jobs and a little better local economy with very low interest rates and affordability – that’s an extremely profitable recipe for a very good housing market.”

Dohr went onto say as 2017 gets underway, the supply of homes on the market in St. Louis is the lowest it’s been in the last decade.  But, despite the tiny supply, he expects prices to increase only modestly this year.  “I read an article last week which said the Midwest is the new frontier in real estate, especially for millennials because of its affordability.  We’re just in the very unique spot here where prices are modest – and that is a great thing moving forward.”

Dohr ended by stating that if anyone is considering selling their home and moving out or around St. Louis, now is the time to do it.  With supply low and demand high, anyone intent on selling a home is going to get the best bang for their buck, and witness their property on the market for a very short amount of time if they list it now.

All in all, it was a great year for St. Louis, and as millennials pour into the city, it only means good things for the local economy.

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Contributing Editor: Alexandra R. Fasulo

St. Louis in 10 top rising American cities

10 top rising American cities

ST LOUIS, MO/January 27, 2017 (STLRealEstate.News) Years in review are still coming in as we near the third week of January, and St. Louis was bestowed another title regarding real estate, city growth, and city promise for millions of millennials and individuals in search of an affordable metropolis.  In most American “it” cities today, urban living and home-ownership seem mutually exclusive and downright near financially impossible, especially in New York City and Los Angeles.  Earlier this month, real estate lifestyle magazine Curbed announced to the world that having the best of both worlds is possible – and it’s possible most of all in a city like St. Louis.

Curbed officially put St. Louis in its top 10 rising American cities where home ownership is affordable for the year ahead.  The article selected its cities by looking at affordability, walk-ability through the city, public transportation, and urban amenities without making a 7-figure salary.  To come to this conclusion, Curbed sourced information from experts at Urban Land Institute, RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, American Planning Association, and Realtor.com.  They then took the data and weighed it against factors such as job growth, home value, and millennial population growth to find cities that fit the bill.  Additionally, Curbed put special emphasis on the “overlooked” cities like St. Louis, nixing Pittsburgh, Austin, and Nashville from their final listing.

Having found a 13 percent millennial population growth, 7 percent sales prices appreciation year-over-year, $179,000 median home price and a popular of 315,685, St. Louis made the Curbed cut.  A spokesperson from Curbed stated, “The Gateway to the West has traditionally had a low profile, but its fortunes look increasingly brighter these days, with a billion-dollar construction boom, including new work around the Ballpark Village Development, and a fast-growing startup scene.”

Cities that joined St. Louis include Colorado Springs, Indianapolis, Provo, and San Antonio.

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Contributing Editor: Alexandra R. Fasulo

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Picture courtesy of Missouri Division of Tourism

Existing US home fell in December as supplies at 17-year low

US home fell

WASHINGTON/January 25, 2017 (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — Americans retreated from purchasing homes in December, as the number of properties listed for sale sank to its lowest level since 1999.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of existing homes fell 2.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million.  For all of 2016, sales posted an annual gain of 3.8 percent to 5.45 million.

But the housing market has become trapped by a supply shortage that has pushed prices higher and may limit the potential for additional sales growth.  Home-buyers simply have fewer choices, as new construction has yet to meet demand and existing homeowners have been reluctant to list their properties for sale.

“Home buying is likely to face additional headwinds going forward, which include low inventory levels, rebounding prices and higher mortgage rates,” said Admir Kolaj, an analyst at TD Bank, who added that these factors are unlikely to “completely derail” the housing market.

Just 1.65 million homes were listed for sale in December.  This marks a 6.3 percent drop from a year ago to the smallest total since 1999.

The tight supplies pushed the median sales price to $232,200 last month, up 4 percent from a year ago.

Homebuyers were able to manage the rising sales prices in part because of low mortgage rates in 2016, but those rates have climbed upward and settled above 4 percent since Donald Trump’s presidential victory.  The financial markets expect that Trump will try to stimulate economic growth through deficit spending, which caused the rates to rise on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note and mortgages.

The Realtors estimate that rising mortgage rates in recent months increased the typical monthly payment by $75, or $900 a year.

It’s possible that rising mortgage rates are causing more people to buy homes earlier than they otherwise would in hopes of locking in lower monthly payments.

“When that activity dies down, we’re not sure where the next wave of buyers is coming from,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said last week that the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans averaged 4.09 percent from 4.12 percent.  That was dramatically higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971.

In December, sales fell in the Northeast, Midwest and West, while staying unchanged in the South, according to the Realtors.

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JOSH BOAK, AP Economics

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Latest: Senate panel approves Ben Carson for HUD job

Ben Carson

Ben Carson, Hud job

WASHINGTON/January 25, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) Ben Carson — The Latest on activities in Congress (all times EST):

11:10 a.m.

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has unanimously approved President Donald Trump’s nominee for housing secretary, Ben Carson.

The former Republican presidential candidate and celebrated neurosurgeon would lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of about $47 billion. His nomination now heads to the full Senate.

Committee Chairman Michael Crapo of Idaho praised Carson and his impressive career, saying HUD “will benefit from having a secretary with a different perspective and a diverse background.”

Ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown said he had some reservations but welcomed Carson’s promises to address lead hazards in public housing.

11:10 a.m.

Former wrestling entertainment executive Linda McMahon is emphasizing her experience in building a business from scratch as she seeks to become the next administrator of the Small Business Administration.

McMahon says in a confirmation hearing Tuesday that she and her husband started out sharing a desk and went on to build a company with more than 800 employees.

She also notes that she and her husband once declared bankruptcy and lost their home, saying “I know what it’s like to take a hit.”

McMahon resigned from WWE in 2009 before running unsuccessfully on two occasions for the U.S. Senate.

She spent about $100 million of her own money in those races and was a big contributor to political action committees seeking to help Donald Trump in November’s election.

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11:00 a.m.

President Donald Trump has invited the Senate leadership to the White House to discuss the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

That’s the word from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday that he, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the leaders of the Judiciary Committee would meet with Trump on Tuesday afternoon.

The court has had one vacancy since last February when Justice Antonin Scalia died. McConnell and Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

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10:55 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says President Donald Trump’s nominee for budget director should be disqualified because he failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household worker more than a decade ago.

Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. The committee held a confirmation hearing Tuesday on Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

Sanders noted that Mulvaney voted for a bill in 2015 that would disqualify people with serious tax delinquencies from being federal employees.

Mulvaney said he discovered the unpaid taxes while preparing for the nominating process. He has since paid the taxes.

Unpaid taxes have derailed some previous Cabinet picks, but others were confirmed anyway. Mulvaney’s tax problem is unlikely to derail his nomination if Republicans remain united behind him.

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10:50 a.m.

A Senate panel has easily approved the nomination of Elaine Chao to lead the Transportation Department.

Chao was labor secretary in President George W. Bush’s administration and deputy transportation secretary under President George H.W. Bush. She is also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and was known to many senators before President Donald Trump tapped her for his Cabinet.

Chao told senators during a hearing on her nomination this month that she hopes to “unleash the potential” of private investors to boost infrastructure spending.

She is expected to play a major role in Trump’s effort to fulfill his campaign promise to generate $1 trillion in infrastructure investment. The administration is expected to release its infrastructure plan this spring.

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10:45 a.m.

A Senate panel has approved President Donald Trump’s choice of conservative billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department.

Ross has specialized in buying distressed companies that still have a potential for delivering profits. He has known Trump for more than 20 years, was an early supporter of his presidential campaign and an economic policy adviser to Trump’s team.

The Senate commerce committee approved his nomination by a voice vote. The full Senate must still vote on the nomination.

Ross has been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which he blames for a loss of U.S. jobs. He has also accused China of protectionist policies.

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10:35 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee has forced a one-week delay in the committee vote on attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says one reason she asked for the delay until Jan. 31 is because of women who marched in Washington and other locations on Saturday. Feinstein said the women want equal rights and pay, rights for workers and protections for the environment.

“It is these principles, these values that the attorney general must defend,” Feinstein said at a committee meeting Tuesday.

She said “we owe it to” those women to be careful in considering the nomination.

Feinstein said the committee received 188 pages of new material Sunday that need to be reviewed. Committee rules allow any member of the committee to delay a vote.

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10:20 a.m.

Breaking with President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan says he has seen no evidence that 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally voted last November and cost the Republican the popular vote.

Ryan told reporters on Tuesday: “I’ve already commented on that I’ve seen no evidence to that effect.”

His comments came hours after Trump incorrectly claimed at a White House reception with congressional leaders, including Ryan, that he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton because of the vote by those here illegally.

That’s according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

Another Republican, Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, said Trump needs to move on. “The election is over,” Dent said, and Trump “won fair and square.” Trump needs to “get to the serious business of governing,” Dent said.

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10:05 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has invited President Donald Trump to address a Joint Session of Congress on Feb. 28.

Ryan announced the invitation on Tuesday, informing reporters after a meeting with House Republicans. Ryan had met with Trump Monday night at the White House. Trump also met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on Monday.

Trump was sworn in as the 45th president on Friday. It would be his first speech to Congress.

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10 a.m.

Congressional analysts are projecting that President Donald Trump has inherited a stable economy and a government that is on track to run a $559 billion budget deficit for the ongoing budget year.

The new estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also say the economy will hold relatively steady. Economic growth is projected to rise slightly to 2.3 percent this year and unemployment to average less than 5 percent for the duration of Trump’s term.

The latest CBO figures are in line with previous projections. They come as Trump and Republicans controlling Congress are working to repeal much of former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, boost the Pentagon budget, and reform the loophole cluttered tax code.

Balancing the budget would require cuts to domestic agencies and big health programs like Medicare

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Picture courtesy of ThinkProgress

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Business Highlights – STLRealEstate.News

Business Highlights

Business Highlights

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How a Trump tariff could sideswipe US auto industry

DETROIT (AP)(STLRealEstate.News) — The threat from President Donald Trump to tax Mexican-made cars sold in the U.S. would throw the auto industry into disarray, analysts say. And it would force some uncomfortable choices: raise car prices or swallow the cost, stop selling Mexican-made cars in the U.S. but risk losing customers or move production to the U.S. but make less money.

Trump hosted a breakfast meeting early Tuesday with the heads of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. But prior to the meeting, Trump tweeted that he wants “new plants to be built here for cars sold here”.

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UK government loses Brexit case, must consult Parliament

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Prime Minister Theresa May must get legislative approval to start the process of leaving the European Union, raising the possibility that lawmakers will delay her plans.

The decision forces the government to put a bill before Parliament, giving members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords the chance to debate and potentially offer amendments that could soften the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, known as Brexit.

While the ruling won’t scuttle Britain’s departure, it once again highlights uncertainty about the timetable.

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Materials, financials help lift S&P 500, Nasdaq to new highs

U.S. stocks posted solid gains Tuesday, propelling the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Nasdaq composite to all-time highs.

Mining and other materials sector companies rose more than the rest of the market. The sector could benefit from initiatives by the White House to streamline the permitting process for manufacturing and clear the way for pipeline construction.

Financial stocks also rose sharply. Energy companies climbed as crude oil prices closed higher. The rally also swept up stocks in U.S. homebuilders.

Health care, phone companies and other high-dividend stocks were among the biggest laggards as bond yields rose.

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Existing US home sales fell in December as supplies at 17-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans retreated from purchasing homes in December, as the number of properties listed for sale sank to its lowest level since 1999.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of existing homes fell 2.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million. For all of 2016, sales posted an annual gain of 3.8 percent to 5.45 million.

But the housing market has become trapped by a supply shortage that has pushed prices higher and may limit the potential for additional sales growth.

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Johnson & Johnson cautious in outlook, shops diabetes care

Johnson & Johnson edged above fourth-quarter profit expectations, helped by consumer goods and pharmaceutical growth, but the world’s biggest health care products company also gave Wall Street a softer-than-expected 2017 earnings forecast.

The maker of Band-Aids and prescription drugs also said Tuesday it was taking another step in restructuring its medical device segment by shopping its diabetes care businesses.

Johnson & Johnson said it is seeking a possible sale, joint venture or operating partnerships for LifeScan Inc., Animas Corp. and Calibra Medical Inc. to spark future growth and maximize shareholder value.

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Amazon moves to avoid EU fines over publishing contracts

BRUSSELS (AP) — Amazon has agreed to change parts of its e-book contracts with publishers in an effort to avoid European Union fines for anti-competitive behavior.

The European Commission said Tuesday that the online giant has committed not to enforce any contract clause that might force publishers to offer Amazon similar terms and conditions as those offered to competitors.

Publishers can also terminate e-book contracts that contain a certain clause linking discount possibilities for an e-book to the retail price of it on another platform.

The commitment would apply for five years to agreements reached in Europe.

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Push to save Pacific Rim trade deal after US exits TPP pact

SYDNEY (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as promised, is prompting other member countries to seek ways to salvage the trade pact.

Leaders of some of the 11 other nations involved in the initiative said they hope to push ahead with the agreement in some form, with or without the U.S.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday he had discussed the pact’s future recently with the prime ministers of Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, all TPP members, and believed the pact could survive without the U.S.

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Eurozone economy starts 2017 with steady growth

LONDON (AP) — A survey shows that the economy of the 19-country eurozone began 2017 with relatively strong growth.

The so-called purchasing managers’ index, a gauge of activity in the manufacturing and services sectors, edged down to 54.3 points in January from the previous month’s 54.4, which was the highest level since mid-2011.

The survey, published Tuesday by IHS Markit, showed exports doing well and employment enjoying its biggest monthly rise since February 2008. Prices were also shown to be on the rise, largely due to higher commodity prices.

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Philadelphia bars employers from requesting salary history

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia has banned employers from asking potential hires to provide their salary history, a move supporters say is a step toward closing the wage gap between men and women.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney signed the measure Monday and said he’s confident the bill can withstand legal challenges.

Supporters contend that since women have historically been paid less than men, the practice of asking for a salary history can help perpetuate a cycle of lower salaries for women, continuing throughout their careers. Opponents, including cable giant Comcast, say the law goes too far in dictating how employers can interact with potential workers.

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Financial Markets

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 112.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to 19,912.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 14.87 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,280.07. The Nasdaq composite picked up 48.01 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,600.96.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 43 cents, or 0.8 percent, to close at $53.18 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 21 cents, or 0.4 percent, at $55.44 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose a penny to $1.58 a gallon, while heating oil added 2 cents to $1.64 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 4 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $3.28 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.