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Realtors Beat Back Bankers

WASHINGTON The powerful Realtors lobby appeared to defeat efforts by the banks to enter their business with approval of a legislative rider last week that would ban banks from the real estate business for the next few years. The rider, attached to a huge spending bill to fund the Transportation and Treasury departments, is almost certain to become law, ending a battle of two influential Washington lobbies, at least for now.

The ability of banks to enter the real estate market would have been allowed under the 1998 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and enabling regulations approved by the Clinton administration but that has been blocked successfully by the Realtors.

During a luncheon in Washington two weeks ago, Rep. Paul Kanjorski said he had been contacted in the past by Realtors asking what they could do, and he advised them to use the credit union model of lobbying.

Deposit Rates Still Sliding...

WASHINGTON Credit unions continued to trim their rates to all-time lows last week to cope with lower market rates, according to DataTrac Corp.

The average paid on regular share accounts slid again, to just 0.93%; while the average for share drafts fell to an anemic 0.56%; and for money market accounts to a paltry 1.1%. Bank rates continued to plunge even lower, falling to just 0.55% for regular savings; 0.38% for checking; and 0.61% for money market accounts.

DataTrac follows rates paid by 8,000 financial institutions, including 1,000 credit unions.

...But Mortgages Rise Again

McLEAN, Va. Home mortgage rates rose again last week, for the second week in a row, according to Freddie Mac. The average for the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate loan climbed to 5.52%, from 5.40% last week; while the average for the 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage moved up to 4.85%, from 4.75%. The average for one-year ARMs also inched up to 3.55% last week, from 3.49% the previous week. Meantime, the mortgage market has apparently cooled off some, as the Mortgage Bankers Association reported its weekly mortgage applications index fell 17.7% last week; while the group's refinancing index fell by 21.3% and its home purchases index declined by 5.5%.

FundsXpress, Voice Access Agree

AUSTIN, Texas E-banking services provider FundsXpress Financial Network said it has signed with VoiceAccess Inc., to provide its credit union and banking customers with voice-activated telephone banking capabilities. The service will allow credit union members to access account balances, transaction history, and loan information, and to transfer funds. VoiceAccess is owned by Grayco Co. of Carrolton, Texas.

Fiserv Acquires Credit Reporters

BROOKFELD, Wis. Fiserv has acquired Chase Credit Research and Chase Credit Systems, related companies that provide credit- reporting services and systems. Fiserv is building an end-to-end lending automation system that includes everything from the origination of the loan through the closing and processing of the loan. Fiserv expects the acquisition to add about $25 million in annual processing and services revenues. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Chase Credit Research and Chase Credit Systems, headquartered in North Hollywood, Calif., provide information from the three major credit-reporting agencies in consolidated reports to lenders. They also lease software that allows lenders and credit-reporting companies to perform their own analyses.

Six CUs Join KeyCorp Network

CLEVELAND KeyCorp said nine more community institutions in Ohio, including six credit unions, have signed on to its agent bank program for access to its network of surcharge-free ATMs. Under the contracts, four of the CUs Best Employees FCU, Cardinal Community CU, SM/SM FCU, and Seven Seventeen CU will have access to Key's 528 ATMs in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, while two The Ohio Educational CU and Telephone CU will have access the entire network of 2,200 ATMs.

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