Wall Street Journal

The rate of home-price appreciation has slowed, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for May, which economists say is a good sign more potential buyers will soon be able to afford to buy. After home prices increased at low double-digit percentage rates per month in 2013, price gains per month this year have hovered just above 4%. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors was somewhat misleading. NAR said median home prices in June reached $236,400, breaking a record set in 2006 at the peak of the housing bubble. But median home prices are misleading and there is little reason to think a new housing bubble is forming. Still, home prices are rising at about twice the rate of inflation, a factor that will continue to keep potential buyers out of the market. Wages also aren't growing. "If you're a first-time home buyer and that real house-price appreciation is faster than wages are appreciating, then that makes it tougher to buy a house," said Doug Duncan Fannie Mae's chief economist. And housing starts and new home sales are also below normal levels, which is creating home supply shortages.

A range of factors has led to a surge in building apartments. For one, there's been a steady downward trend in the rental vacancy rate; the rate fell to 6.8% in the second quarter, its lowest level since 1985. That's pushed up the price to rent, especially in markets like San Francisco and New York. Furthermore, banks have eased lending standards and as of the middle of this month, banks had a seasonally adjusted $1.7 trillion worth of commercial real estate loans outstanding.

With home prices rising, and the rental vacancy rate at 30-year lows, it probably makes sense the rent-to-own housing market would make a comeback. Rent-to-own programs were popular back in the 1990s, but faded about 10 years later when anyone with a pulse could obtain a mortgage with no money down. Since those days are gone, combined with the aforementioned factors surrounding the rental market, the concept of housing as rent-to-own has returned. One of the fastest growing players in the market is Home Partners of America, backed by a former Goldman Sachs executive, money manager BlackRock and real estate developer Sam Zell. Home Partners of America spent $100 million in June to acquire about 320 homes. That was up from spending of $15 million for 66 homes a year earlier.

Financial Times

Citizens Financial Group in Providence, R.I., will soon leave the nest from its Scottish parents. Royal Bank of Scotland said it would sell the remainder of its stake in the holding company for Citizens Bank by the end of the year, in an offering estimated to raise about $2.6 billion, as RBS wants to focus on its operations in the U.K., and satisfy the European Commission's concerns about RBS's prior acceptance of state aid.

New York Times

The Florida State University connection to the massive cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase continues to expand. Authorities investigating the cyberattack on JPMorgan are looking into friends, college classmates and fraternity brothers of the three men thus far charged in the attack. Three of the men charged — Anthony Murgio, Joshua Samuel Aaron and Yuri Lebedev — attended Florida State in Tallahassee at around the same time. Two of them were members of Phi Sigma Kappa. Lebedev worked for a company owned by Murgio's brother, who graduated from Florida State. Additionally, Murgio appointed five people to the board of Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union in Jackson, N.J., where he was vice chairman; all of them took classes at Florida State. Even more former classmates were involved in companies that Aaron and Murgio founded in Florida. None of these people associated with Florida State or the suspects' companies have been charged, and they may know nothing about what happened. But investigators will certainly be questioning them, as they may provide clues. "What the investigators will do is look at people who know each other and have had contact with each other during critical junctures," a criminal defense lawyer said.

The paper has a helpful, unnerving quiz to show how many times your personal information and financial history has been exposed to hackers. Here's a sampling of some of the multiple-choice questions. Have you signed up for an account with any of the following: eBay, Slack, Twitter, etc. Did you have health insurance with Anthem, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc. Did you use a credit card at any of these retailers: Home Depot, Kmart, P.F. Chang's, etc.

Elsewhere ...

Investor's Business Daily: An unsigned editorial lambastes Dodd-Frank for causing malaise in the U.S. economy. The paper cites American Enterprise Institute fellow Peter Wallison, who told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, "I believe that all the new regulation added by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 is the primary reason for the slow growth this country has experienced since 2010." IBD also referred to a Mercatus Center report that said, "Dodd-Frank's 27,669 rules are five times more than any other law and more than the total number of new regulations 'for all other laws passed during the Obama administration put together.'"

Charlotte Observer: Ally Financial was created from General Motors' GMAC auto-finance subsidiary and the company is technically headquartered in Detroit. But the $157 billion-asset company this week held its second-quarter earnings conference call from Charlotte, N.C. Ally's press release for second-quarter earnings carried a Charlotte dateline. Ally's chief executive, Jeffrey Brown, and chief financial officer, Chris Halmy, are both based in Charlotte. And Ally employs 800 people in Charlotte.

Adweek: The advertising industry trade publication writes a boffo review for TD Bank's "absurdly cinematic" new TV spots.

Daily Mail (U.K.): Dutch lender ING Bank is experimenting with voice-activated mobile banking.

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