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CUNA continues pursuit of MBL opportunities

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WASHINGTON (2/15/10)--While Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) released a bipartisan jobs bill last week, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dismissed it in favor of his newly-released jobs amendment that he hopes will be attached to H.R. 2847, the Jobs For Main Street Act. Reid's substitute amendment, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, introduced last week, includes tax credits for businesses that create jobs by granting employers social security payroll tax exemptions for any person they hire this year that has been unemployed for at least two months. The dismissed Baucus/Grassley jobs bill included significant defined benefit pension plan funding relief for employers, and there is a chance that this funding relief could be included in a later bill. Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs John Magill said that CUNA is aware that the Congress will continue to discuss job creation legislation as the year wears on, and CUNA "will continue to work to get member business lending (MBL) legislation on one of those legislative vehicles." MBL-related legislation remains active in both the House and the Senate. The bills, which were introduced late last year by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), would increase the credit union MBL cap to 25% of assets and raise the "de minimis" threshold for MBLs to $250,000. Both pieces of legislation have bipartisan support.

Freddie Mac 30-year mortgage rates dip below 5

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WASHINGTON (2/15/10)--In its weekly release on the state of the home loan market, Freddie Mac disclosed that the average rate of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was 4.97% for the week ended Feb. 11, a slight drop from the previous week's average of 5.01%. Freddie Mac vice president/chief economist Frank Nothaft said that this was the third time in 2010 that the weekly mortgage rate average had fallen below 5%, "which helps a number of homeowners to refinance their existing housing debt." Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 4.34% during the week, a slight drop from the 4.4% average reported during the previous week. Thirty-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 5.16% and 4.81%, respectively, this time last year. Freddie Mac also released numbers on less conventional mortgages, noting that the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 4.19% for the week, with the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaging 4.33%.

LICU capital rule on NCUA meeting agenda

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (2/15/10)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), at its upcoming board meeting at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 18, will be briefed on an interim final rule addressing secondary capital accounts for low-income credit unions. Section 701.34 of the NCUA's regulations determines the criteria that credit unions must meet to be considered low-income credit unions. The NCUA early last week approved the interim final rule via notational vote. The interim rule, which allows low-income credit unions (LICUs) to redeem all or part of government-funded secondary capital, along with their matching secondary capital at any time after it has been on deposit for two years, follows the U.S. Treasury Department's announcement of an initiative intended to enable LICUs, banks and thrifts to increase lending in low-income areas. The board will also be updated on the status of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund during the meeting. A closed meeting of the board--during which the NCUA will discuss supervisory activities and personnel matters--will follow the session.

Inside Washington (02/12/2010)

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* WASHINGTON (2/15/10)--If a regulatory reform bill is not enacted this year, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) may lose his chance to crack down on the Federal Reserve, according to financial observers. Shelby has voiced his intent to cut the Fed “down to size,” arguing that it failed to stop the financial crisis and therefore should lose its supervisory powers, said American Banker (Feb. 12). Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) has been working on a reform bill with Shelby, but negotiations between Dodd and Shelby have broken down. Dodd said he will work on legislation with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). While the Senate may support provisions to cut the central bank’s power, it’s likely the Fed’s political power will increase as the financial crisis goes away. Also, if Shelby supports a reform bill, it may be because he wants to strip the Fed of its power, Banker said ... * WASHINGTON (2/15/10)--Calling for a ban on proprietary trading is too difficult, said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Last month, President Barack Obama proposed banning the trading, an action referred to as the Volcker Rule after former Federal Reserve Board Gov. Paul Volcker, who championed the idea (American Banker Feb. 12). Warner is working on reform legislation with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) He said the trading would be addressed in other legislation or through regulatory structure changes ... * WASHINGTON (2/15/10)--Credit unions interested in national disaster preparedness rules can comment on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s draft National Disaster Recovery Framework. The framework is intended to work with the National Response Framework to provide organizing constructs and principles focused on disaster recovery (Federal Register Feb. 12) ...