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U.S. regulators probing foreclosure practices

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Consumer price index percentage change from previous month for all urban consumers, seasonally adjusted
Thursday, November 18, 2010

The four major U.S. bank regulators are conducting a joint investigation of foreclosure practices that involves visiting mortgage servicers and reviewing sample loan files, according to a Federal Reserve official.

In prepared remarks to be delivered Thursday to the House Financial Services subcommittee on housing, Federal Reserve board member Elizabeth A. Duke says investigators are expected to conclude the on-site portion of their review by the end of the year and publicly release a report highlighting their findings early next year.

"We are prepared to take supervisory action where necessary and appropriate to hold institutions accountable for poor practices," Duke said. She said the Fed, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are working together on the probe.

Another regulator - John Walsh, acting comptroller of the currency - is scheduled to testify before the committee on Thursday that the government's examination of foreclosures is not limited to banks. Walsh said in his prepared remarks that officials are looking at the role of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems - a tracking system for mortgage assignments created by the financial industry - and at Lender Processing Services, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that tracks mortgage payments and prepares foreclosure documents for numerous big banks.

- Ariana Eunjung Cha

ECONOMY

Altman a candidate to replace Summers

Investment banker Roger Altman, a deputy Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, is among several candidates to replace Lawrence H. Summers as President Obama's top economic adviser, White House officials said Wednesday.

Altman met with Obama on Tuesday to discuss the job as director of the National Economic Council. Summers, a former Treasury secretary and Harvard president, is leaving the post at the end of this year to return to academia. The White House is eager to recruit someone from the business community for the job to help repair the president's frayed relationship with corporate America.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs denied reports that Altman is the front-runner for the job, calling him one of "a number of good candidates" in a selection process that is in the "early" stages. Altman, 64, is the founder of Evercore Partners, which advises major corporations on investment banking decisions.

- Lori Montgomery

Core inflation unchanged in October

Consumer prices barely changed for the third straight month, strengthening the Federal Reserve's defense against accusations that its plan to boost the economy by buying more government debt will spur runaway inflation.

A report Wednesday from the Labor Department showed that a steep rise in gasoline prices drove the consumer price index up 0.2 percent in October, the fourth straight monthly increase. But excluding volatile food and energy costs, core consumer prices were unchanged for the third straight month. In the past year, the core index - which is closely watched by Fed policymakers - has risen only 0.6 percent, the smallest increase since the index began in 1957.

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said construction of new homes and apartments sank 11.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 519,000 units, as apartment construction fell by more than 40 percent. The much larger single-family-home category fell 1.1 percent. Construction of new homes and apartments is 77 percent below its peak during the housing boom of 2.27 million units in January 2006. Analysts say it could be years before it returns to a healthy pace of 1 million units annually.

- Associated Press


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