Denial rates higher for Hispanics, blacks

U.S. mortgage lending increased by 38 percent last year, boosted by significant refinancing activity, with white and Asian borrowers continuing to enjoy greater access to credit for purchases than blacks or Hispanics, regulators said Wednesday.

“The total number of originated loans of all types and purposes reported increased by about 2.7 million, or 38 percent, from 2011, in part because of a 54 percent increase in the number of refinancings,” the report from the regulators said.

Home-purchase lending also increased during the same period, but by a more modest 13 percent. Data on home purchases showed that blacks and Hispanic whites had “experienced higher denial rates than non-Hispanic white applicants,” the report said. The denial rate for Asian applicants was “virtually the same as the corresponding denial rate for non-Hispanic white applicants.”

Banks are required to disclose detailed lending data under the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act by March 1 of each year, and regulators regularly provide an overview.

The 2012 data consist of loan information reported by 7,400 lenders, including all of the nation’s largest mortgage originators. The data were released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Reserve, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

— Reuters

Zuckerberg pushes reform on the Hill

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lobbied members of Congress on immigration reform Wednesday, the first of a two-day visit to Washington.

Comprehensive immigration reform, Zuckerberg said, is as vital to the U.S. economy as changing the rules to allow highly skilled people to work in the United States, and he said it makes sense to do both at the same time.

“Eleven million people is a lot of people who are being treated unfairly right now,” he told a packed room at the Newseum. Zuckerberg spoke for about an hour with interviewer James Bennet of the Atlantic magazine and fielded questions from the audience, a mix of journalists, tech policy experts and local entrepreneurs.

Asked about the conflicts between the philosophies of Washington and Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg said he believes the government isn’t the broken-down system that cynics say it is. He declined to say where he falls in the political spectrum himself, saying he is “pro-knowledge economy.”

Zuckerberg did criticize the U.S. government for not being more transparent about data collection by the National Security Agency and other agencies. Such programs, he said, undermine public trust in companies such as Facebook, which has joined other Web companies in asking the government for permission to release more information about requests.

Zuckerberg met privately with House Republicans and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday. He will meet with more politicians Thursday, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee.

— Hayley Tsukayama


The U.S. Treasury has sold another block of shares in General Motors, reducing its stake to 7.3 percent as it moves toward exiting its holdings in the automaker by the end of March. The Treasury sold more than 110 million shares between May 6 and Sept. 13, raising more than $3.82 billion, according to documents posted online Tuesday. The Treasury confirmed its stake in the No. 1 U.S. automaker now stands at 101 million shares. The U.S. government, which originally took a 60.8 percent stake in GM as part of its $49.5 billion bailout of the company in 2009, said it had recovered about $35.4 billion of its investment.

The creator of Beanie Babies stuffed animals has been charged with federal tax evasion for allegedly failing to report income earned in a secret offshore account, and he has agreed to pay a penalty of more than $53 million. Prosecutors in Chicago announced charges Wednesday against H. Ty Warner. His attorney issued a statement saying the 69-year-old would plead guilty and pay the penalty. Defense attorney Gregory Scandaglia called the matter an “unfortunate situation” that Warner “has been trying to resolve for several years.”

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation­ European Union, on Wednesday unveiled draft legislation to regulate financial benchmarks that are used in transactions worth trillions of dollars globally, an effort to prevent market manipulations such as the one involving Libor, an interest rate banks use to borrow from each other. Under the proposal, national regulators and a coordinating European body are granted new powers to investigate possible rigging or conflicts of interests and can issue fines of up to 10 percent of a firm’s revenue.

A panel of federal judges on Wednesday upheld California’s first-in-the-nation mandate requiring fuel producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected arguments from fuel makers that California’s “Low Carbon Fuel Standard” discriminated against out-of-state producers. The ruling removes an injunction that halted implementation of the law. The low-carbon fuel standard is a key piece of California’s landmark global warming law, AB 32, and is meant to cut the state’s dependence on petroleum by 20 percent and account for one-tenth of the state’s goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

— From news services

Coming Today

8:30 a.m.: Weekly jobless claims released.

10 a.m.: Existing-home sales for August released.