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Interest Rates Are Low, but Banks Balk at Refinancing

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DAVID STREITFELD
New York Times
Sunday, Dec 13th, 2009

Mortgage rates in the United States have dropped to their lowest levels since the 1940s, thanks to a trillion-dollar intervention by the federal government. Yet the banks that once handed out home loans freely are imposing such stringent requirements that many homeowners who might want to refinance are effectively locked out.

The scarcity of credit not only hurts homeowners but also has broad economic repercussions at a time when consumer spending and employment are showing modest signs of improvement, hinting at a recovery after two years of recession.

Refinancing could save owners hundreds of dollars a month, which could be spent, saved or used to pay down debts. Extra spending would help lift the economy, and lower payments might spare some people from losing their homes to foreclosure.

The plight of homeowners has become a volatile political issue. On Friday, as the House passed a series of new financial regulations, it narrowly defeated a provision that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of mortgages. The measure was strongly opposed by the banking industry.

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This article was posted: Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 6:41 am





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