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State regulators find flaws in federal foreclosure-help program

Thursday, January 21, 2010; A16

REAL ESTATE

Regulators find flaws in foreclosure program

The high level of foreclosures plaguing the country will get worse before it gets better, according to a report that found that mortgage relief being offered to distressed borrowers is not keeping up with the need.

The report, issued Wednesday by the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group, which is made up of 12 state attorneys general and three banking regulators, found that the number of borrowers falling into trouble exceeded the number of borrowers able to tap into a federal mortgage assistance program. The foreclosure relief process appears to be backlogged, with some mortgage servicers taking six months to complete a loan modification, according to the report, which includes data from 13 large mortgage servicers.

The report identified weaknesses in the government's mortgage relief effort, known as Making Home Affordable, including cumbersome documentation requirements. The program has slowed the tide of foreclosures, but "implementation failures have hindered the program's ability to reach its full potential," the report said.

"As we have previously said, we are continually reviewing our housing plan to ensure that it promotes stability in the housing markets," Michael Barr, a Treasury assistant secretary, said in a statement.

-- Renae Merle

CHINA

Fourth-quarter growth surpassed 10%

China's economic growth accelerated to 10.7 percent in the final quarter of 2009, adding pressure on Beijing to cool inflation as it keeps the country's recovery on track.

The quarterly growth announced Thursday exceeded most forecasts and brought 2009's full-year expansion to 8.7 percent. The government had forecast 8.3 percent growth for the year.

China has rebounded strongly from the global downturn, but the government worries that heavy stimulus spending and bank lending might fuel inflation. Regulators have ordered banks to control lending and analysts expect them to raise interest rates this year.

-- Associated Press

ALSO IN BUSINESS

-- Wide recall for strollers: About 1.5 million Chinese-made Graco strollers sold at Wal-Mart, Target and other major retailers are being recalled after some children's fingertips were severed by hinges.

The recall includes certain model numbers for its Passage, Alano and Spree Strollers and Travel Systems. The Exton, Pa., company received reports of five children who had their fingertips severed; two received cuts.

-- American Airlines closes year with loss: American Airlines ended 2009 with a fourth-quarter loss of $344 million, compared with a loss of $347 million a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter fell 7 percent, to $5.06 billion. American's parent, AMR, blamed much of the loss on the weak economy. It said traffic fell and many business travelers stayed home or bought cheaper tickets. For the year, the company lost $1.47 billion, an improvement from 2008's $2.12 billion loss. Revenue for the year fell 16 percent, to $19.92 billion.

-- 'Economy is on the mend,' U.N. says: The United Nations forecast a fragile and uneven economic recovery in 2010 from the worst recession since World War II, with a global growth rate of 2.4 percent.

"The world economy is on the mend," the U.N. said in its annual economic forecast. It said equity markets have been rebounding, international trade and industrial production have been recovering, and risk premiums on lending have been falling.

-- From news services

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