Spin, Not Substance, Is Just What Investors Need Now

With the economic recovery gaining steam, President Obama's State of the Union address -- and the GOP response -- should be seen as a shift to a less activist approach. Feel-good rhetoric may be wiser than heavy-handed policies that could easily backfire.

How the State of the Economy Has Changed Under Obama

Upon taking office in 2009, Obama inherited two costly wars and an economy that had violently imploded just months before. What's changed since then? Quite a bit, but the record is decidedly mixed. Here's a midterm report card of key indicators of the country's economic health.

Mortgage Applications Ease Off as 2010 Comes to an End

Mortgage applications slowed down in the week before Christmas and increased the week after, while interest rates rose to a seven-month high, then retreated again, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. Shifts in refinancing were the key factor.

October's Home-Price Drop Has 'No Good News'

The U.S. housing sector got another dose of sobering news Tuesday, as home prices in 20 major cities fell a worse-than-expected 1.3% in October from September. The S&P Case-Shiller index has now dropped for four straight months.

New-Home Sales Rise but Remain at Low Levels

Although new home sales rose 5.5% in November to a 290,000-unit annual rate, it%u2019s important for investors to maintain a sense of perspective about the rise. The gain was less than expected, and home sales are still well below the sales level typically seen in a healthy housing market.

The Housing Mess Hits One New York Town Hard

In some parts of the U.S., the real estate market remains deep in recession. But even with housing prices sitting at multi-year lows, millions of houses remain empty, unable to attract buyers haunted by unemployment and a weak economy. As part of a new series, Ghost Towns of the Great Recession, DailyFinance takes a look at one town near New York City that is still struggling with the effects of the great real estate bust.

Housing 2011: Unsettled, Underwater, Unsold

Housing market watchers got a bit of good news Thursday: Sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 10.4 % in October. But that was one spark of hope against a backdrop of declining prices, bulging inventories and ongoing legal issues around foreclosures. A real estate recovery in 2011? Don't count on it.

Pending Home Sales Rebound Strongly

Aided by an improving job market and comparatively low mortgage rates, U.S. pending home sales surged a record 10.4% in October. Still, despite the good news, the latest new and existing home sales reports suggest a sluggish, uneven U.S. housing sector recovery, at least into early 2011.

U.S. Home Prices Slip Again, Reviving Talk of a Double Dip

U.S. home prices in 20 major cities fell a worse-than-expected 0.7% in September, Case-Shiller said, as home-buyer demand ebbed with the approaching September 30 closing deadline for the home buyer tax credit. Further, low demand from buyers suggests continued home price weakness heading into 2011 until the large inventory of unsold homes is reduced.

Startup RentJuice Is Capitalizing on the Rise of Renter Nation

For years, the property management business has been stuck in the Dark Ages -- using faxes, paper ledgers and out-of-date spreadsheet software. But as the foreclosure crisis adds millions of people to the rental market, new startup RentJuice is aiming to bring property management into the Internet Age.

Bank of America Fined for Harassing Ex-Homeowners

Michael and Dolores Kirkbride of North Carolina settled their debt with Countrywide, but the bank and later its new owner, Bank of America, kept calling to demand payment -- hundreds of times. A judge has fined BofA for its egregious conduct.

Mortgage Delinquencies Fall in the Third Quarter

A smaller percentage of mortgage holders were delinquent on their payments in the third quarter than in the second quarter, although the percentage of delinquencies remains up from the same period last year.

New Housing Starts Plunged 11.7% in October

U.S. housing starts unexpectedly plunged 11.7% in October to a 519,000-unit annual rate, weighed down by a 47.5% decline in apartment and condo construction. But building permits, a leading indicator of future housing construction, did inch 0.5% higher last month. U.S. housing starts unexpectedly plunged 11.7% in October to a 519,000-unit annual rate, weighed down by a 47.5% decline in apartment and condo construction. But building permits, a leading indicator of future housing construction, did inch 0.5% higher last month.

Mortgage Applications Drop on Lower Demand for Refinancing

Applications for mortgages dropped last week, as demand for refinancing loans fell. The Market Composite Index, which measures total applications for mortgage loans, slipped 14.4% from a week earlier, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The figure does not include an adjustment for Veterans Day.

Is Robo-Signing Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

In a Senate panel hearing Monday, the Iowa attorney general said the problems in the home-loan industry extend well beyond just "robo-signing." A system-wide overhaul is needed, he said.

Foreclosure Chaos Could Hurt Banks, Housing Market

Flawed foreclosure paperwork could inflict huge losses on the nation%u2019s top banks and spread chaos through the housing market, according to a congressional report. Accusations that major mortgage lenders including Bank of America Corp. (BAC), used flawed or even forged documents to foreclose on homes have worried officials in state and federal governments.

Mortgage Applications Rise, Thanks to Low Interest Rates

Demand for mortgage loans rose last week, driven by low interest rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its Market Composite Index rose 5.8% on a seasonally adjusted basis from a week earlier. The index measures the volume of applications for loans.

U.S. Growth to Lag Behind Developing World in 2011

The world economy is poised for more of the same in 2011 -- booming growth in China, India and Brazil, and a sluggish crawl in the U.S. and much of the rest of the developed world. Here are the five most important factors driving expectations for sluggish economic growth in the U.S.:

Pending Home Sales Drop Points to Uneven Recovery

Pending home sales in the U.S. unexpectedly fell 1.8% in September, the National Association of Realtors reported Friday. It was the statistic's first decline in three months, and one that suggests that the housing sector's recovery is likely to remain uneven through at least early 2011.

Freddie Mac Posts $4.1 Billion Loss, Requests More U.S. Aid

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac posted a net loss of $4.1 billion for the third quarter, compared with a loss of $6 billion a year earlier. The company paid a $1.6 billion dividend to the Treasury, which rescued the ailing company two years ago. Freddie Mac also set aside $3.7 billion to cover credit losses and posted derivative losses of $1.1 billion, the company said in a statement.

Most Americans Say the Recession Isn't Over Yet

About three out of four Americans say the U.S. is still in a recession, with Republicans and women slightly more pessimistic about the U.S. economy than Democrats and men, according to a recent AOL survey.

New Home Sales Edge Higher but Remain at Low Levels

U.S. new home sales rose a better-than-expected 6.6% in September, but the rise is hardly cause for celebration. Sales remain near a 47-year low, with the sector showing few signs of generating enough demand to vault sales back to normal levels.

Blogwatch: The Housing Market Is Poised to Boom

Among the day's top online stories for investors: why the housing market is ready to boom, which sector significantly outperformed the S&P over the past year, and the scoop on Warren Buffett's successor Todd Combs.