Debt & Taxes
Rising Mortgage Rates Slow Housing Rebound
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 12:57pm
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Mortgage rates soared last week to their highest level in two years, causing the number of mortgage applications to fall by 12 percent from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed to 4.58 percent from 4.46 percent last week. The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages also shot up to 3.64 percent from last week’s 3.55 percent.
Meanwhile, the share of mortgage refinance applications fell to 64 percent last week from 67 percent – the lowest since May 2011. MBA’s refinance index decreased 16 percentage points.
The rising mortgage rates likely reflect both  stronger economic data as well as market anxiety over Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s recent suggestion that the Fed could begin scaling back its economic stimulus program by the end of the year.  -  Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

RELATED: WILL RISING RATES HURT THE HOUSING RECOVERY?

STATE DEPARTMENT BUYS FACEBOOK LIKES The cabinet agency spent $630,000 in the last two years to beef up its popularity on Facebook and increase the number of “likes” on each of its pages from 100,000 in 2011 to more than 2 million this year, a newly released inspector general report says.

The auditor questioned the effectiveness of the social media outreach and said that just 2 percent of the 2 million Facebook users who “liked” the State Department’s pages were active users who engaged through comments and shares.  - Read the report here

KEY OBAMACARE PROVISION DELAYED The Treasury Department has given companies with more than 50 workers a one-year reprieve on providing health insurance for their employees. Tax penalties of $2,000 per uninsured worker will not start until 2015 because business owners and the IRS were not prepared to begin enforcing the law by next year.

This fits a larger pattern of missed deadlines within the Obama administration, where final rules of the financial regulatory reforms in Dodd-Frank are also still unresolved. For the time being, individuals without insurance coverage will still have to pay a tax penalty. -  Find out what this could mean for Obamacare here

THE WHITE HOUSE EXPLAINS   Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett writes in the White House’s official blog: “In our ongoing discussions with businesses we have heard that you need the time to get this right. We are listening… First, we are cutting red tape and simplifying the reporting process…Second, we are giving businesses more time to comply… Since employer responsibility payments can only be assessed based on this new reporting, payments won't be collected for 2014. This allows employers the time to test the new reporting systems and make any necessary adaptations to their health benefits while staying the course toward making health coverage more affordable and accessible for their workers.” -  See the full post here

LOBBYISTS’ FAVORITE LAWMAKERS   A new report by the Center for Responsive Politics shows the top 50 recipients of contributions from lobbyists in 2013. The top five lawmakers, led by Ed Markey who just won a special election, who scored the most cash so far include:

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) $183,340
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) $125,094
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) $85,100
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) $84,700
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) $79,850

See the full list here

HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION? For the July 4th holiday, The Fiscal Times reached out to leading experts, lawmakers and academics with a simple question: How would you amend the Constitution? -  See their responses here

Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.