Wall Street Journal

New rules for mortgage closings helped squash sales of previously owned homes in November, according to the National Association of Realtors. Existing-home sales fell 10.5% last month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.76 million, the Realtors said. That's less than the 5.32 million predicted by economists.

The reason? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's mortgage disclosure rules, known as "Know Before You Owe" or TRID, for Truth-in-Lending Act and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. As American Banker's Kate Berry reported, citing the Realtors' chief economist, TRID has resulted in longer time frames to close loans. Another contributing factor is low inventory levels. Low inventory is a partly a result of so many homes being locked up as rentals; the supply of rentals is expected to increase in the next year, according to Auction.com.

Lending Club on Tuesday raised interest rates on new loans, a result of the Fed's rate hike, as well as struggling corporate junk bonds. Citigroup has had to offer progressively higher yields on the Prosper loans it has securitized. Citigroup has sold more than $1 billion of securitized Prosper loans since August. The higher yields could lead to rising borrower costs, as Prosper and its rivals pass on the higher costs to customers. Funds listed in London that buy marketplace loans have also been declining, including VPC Specialty Lending Investments and Ranger Direct Lending Fund.

It was a mistake to buy bank stocks on the cheap during the height of the financial crisis, "Heard on the Street" said. Since the week ended Oct. 10, 2008, during the worst weeks in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 Index has gained 125.5%. Over the same period, the KBW Nasdaq Bank Index has risen 36.9%. It's even worse for Bank of America. Its stock trades 18.9% below its Oct. 10, 2008, closing price. Citigroup's stock has had a disastrous run, as it trades 62.6% lower than its Oct. 10, 2008, closing price.

While the stocks of Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have increased since Oct. 10, 2008, none has kept up with the S&P 500. It makes an investor wonder which advice given by Warren Buffett is the best to follow: Put your money in an S&P 500 Index Fund? Or, "be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful"?

If it's seemed like U.S. Postal Service workers delivering packages has become a more common sight, that's because they're working harder. The USPS is aggressively trying to seize market share during the holiday shipping season and is doing everything from running operations around the clock to delivering packages on Sunday. The strategy is not necessarily a good thing for U.S. Post Office profits, however, said a shipping industry consultant. It costs the USPS more money to take on more business because of its outdated infrastructure, and that eats into its profits.

Coal production has plummeted in West Virginia and Wyoming, amid low prices for natural gas and oil. That's resulted in huge declines in tax revenue in both states, with West Virginia being hurt the most. West Virginia has cut spending at all state agencies by 4%, except the Education Department, which was cut 1%.

New York Times

JPMorgan Chase was ordered to pay $307 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission probes into whether the bank failed to tell clients about conflicts of interest. Specifically, JPMorgan didn't tell customers it was putting their money into more-expensive funds that the bank itself managed, when cheaper funds were available. Instead of focusing on just disclosing the conflicts, the SEC should ban the conflicts altogether, says an unsigned editorial in the New York Times. It's another example of how little the SEC does to protect investors.

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