Receiving Wide Coverage ...
An Uneven Recovery: Home prices are appreciating in wealthier areas, but values in poorer towns continue to lag behind, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the working-class suburb of Lithonia, Ga., for example, 54% of homeowners are underwater; the same is true of 15% of homes worth less than $200,000 nationwide, compared to just 6% of homes worth more than $200,000. One way to help struggling homeowners could be to slash the mortgage principal on government-backed loans, although Federal Housing Finance Agency head Mel Watt has indicated that any such measure would be small in scope. The New York Times also paints a troubled picture of the housing market with an article about how homeownership has become increasingly out of reach for low- and middle-income Americans, thereby pushing up rental prices. (Will higher rental prices make it even harder for people to set money aside for down payments, thereby perpetuating this state of affairs?)
A Flurry of Capital Raises: Personal financial management startup Credit Karma has completed a $175 million capital raise, pushing its valuation to $3.5 billion. This signals yet another tremor in the coming quake of disruption to the financial industry, the Times suggests. The Financial Times notes that the company is one of 113 private firms worldwide worth more than $1 billion, also known as "unicorns." The papers differ in their claims about how Credit Karma will use the funds. The Times says the company plans to put the money toward offering new platforms and services such as student-loan consolidation and an insurance-rate comparison tool. The FT says money will largely go toward closing Credit Karma's partnerships with banks and other lenders for its loan-matching service. Meanwhile, Blockchain Capital (formerly Crypto Currency Partners) has raised $7 million to open a new venture capital fund. The second fund will be dedicated to investing in non-financial companies that use blockchain technology, according to VentureBeat. CoinDesk has an interview with managing partner Bart Stephens about the firm's evolving strategy.
Wall Street Journal
The already-uncertain fate of the Export-Import Bank is looking even less clear with its charter set to lapse next week. Congress is expected to vote on a reauthorization bill in July, "but supporters worry that even a brief lapse might damage the banks reputation and crimp U.S. business activities abroad."
U.S. Bancorp has a winning strategy of purchasing mortgage bonds insured by Ginnie Mae at below-market prices.
You know digital banking is really taking off when customers start making transactions on dates. Seventeen percent of the 1,502 adults surveyed by JPMorgan Chase say they have conducted an online bank transaction over the course of a romantic outing. (Bet the "transfer funds" option comes in handy when lobster and champagne are on the menu.)
Mobile-money services are giving people in Bangladesh access to much-needed remittances.
A Citigroup executive admitted plans to lean on brokers to lower the London interbank offered rate in a September 2007 email, according to evidence presented at the London trial of former Citi trader Tom Hayes.
It will be tough for big banks to significantly improve earnings via cost-cutting in the short term, according to John Carney of "Heard on the Street." Compliance costs are slowing down efforts to reduce expenses at JPMorgan and Bank of America, he suggests, while Wells Fargo and Citi have already trimmed costs about as low as they can go.
New York Times
Times readers weigh in on their top picks for the woman to be featured on the $10 bill. Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks are among the leading candidates, along with some slightly off the beaten path nominees like Amelia Earhart and environmentalist Rachel Carson.
Kenya's mobile savings and credit service M-Shwari yet to achieve its potential, opines Michael Turner, head of the think tank PERC. At the moment, M-Shwari is "a borderline high-cost lender and has not yet fully evolved into an instrument for financial inclusion," he writes.