With the change of clocks ahead of us this weekend, let's ease into the work week and put this Girl Scout cookie issue to rest once and for all. Besides all of the benefits that accrue from the sale of the cookies to support G.S. activities, which is great, it turns out that that the number of cookies per box is a matter of in which part of the country you live!  The US is divided in half, with ABC Smart Cookies (East) having half and Little Brownie Bakers in the west.  ABC gives us 32 cookies while Little Brownie gives the public 28.  I'm glad we got to the bottom of this - but where's the tip line for the Cookie Finance Protection Bureau? As one person wrote, "I'm also glad I live in Texas - the half of the country served by ABC Smart Cookies."

Parkside Lending continues to expand its operations and is seeking to add quality Wholesale Account Executives in Southern California, Washington, Oregon and Texas.  Parkside Lending is known for its Common Sense approach to lending and ease of doing business with.  At Parkside Lending each loan is important to us because we know that there is a real person behind it, and it is the lifeblood of your broker.  Our reputation is one of exceptional customer service; delivering fast turn times, minimal overlays and leading edge technology.  Confidential inquiries should be submitted to Rick@parksidelending .com or sent to parksidelending .com.


And on the other side of the nation, top 10 lender PHH Mortgage is recruiting for a Vice President of Product Management and a Senior Capital Markets Analyst for its Mt. Laurel, NJ office. PHH offers a competitive compensation package which includes a base salary and full benefits.  Interested candidates can view more details and submit a job application at phhjobs.com or send a resume directly to recruiting@mortgagefamily .com Qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin or any other characteristic protected by law.


By the way, PHH Correspondent is rolling out a full scale sub-servicing option to its large delegated clients to complement its efforts already being executed by PHH's Private Label business backed by the robust compliance and regulatory practices in place. PHH will be offering the option to bid on current portfolios or establish an arrangement for concurrent and/or bifurcated servicing. All servicing will be branded in the name of the correspondent and PHH will not cross sell or solicit this pipeline.

I am not sure PHH is involved in reverse mortgage lending, but Reverse Mortgage Insight confirmed what LOs specializing in reverse mortgages already knew: per HUD Reverse mortgage endorsements fell 6.9% in February from January. Several regions, however, and several lenders reported an uptick during the month including the Midwest, Pacific/Hawaii and Great Plains, all seeing 12-month highs, RMI reports. Liberty Home Equity Solutions, formerly Genworth Financial Home Equity Access, achieved top retail lender status on a trailing 12-month basis with year-to-date volume up 40%. Security One and American Advisors group took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots for year to date gains, respectively, each seeing triple-digit growth.  Following a volume spike in January, several regions saw volume plummet, including the Rocky Mountain region, down 23% from January.

I received, as I always do, many comments about the aging population of real estate and lending. For one example, Mike Ousley, president & CEO of Direct Valuation Solutions, wrote, "I read with interest this morning about why Realtors and LOs are like land - not making any more (I guess with global warming, we may actually be losing land too).  By all accounts, that issue pertains to real estate appraisers as well.  Once upon a time, back in the mid 2000's, estimates had the number of appraisers near 80,000 nationwide.  While it is difficult to find this statistic, most pundits believe the number of appraisers has dropped to a level well below 60,000 nationwide since 2008, and given that most lenders don't accept trainee licensed appraisals (and many are accepting anything less than a certified appraiser - read FHA/HUD), that number is cut again.  And, I can't remember the last time I talked to a college student or graduate about becoming an appraiser, not to mention that the average age of appraisers is similar to the average age of LO's in NJ, mid-fifties.  Another decade or so and we may be fresh out of appraisers to go around - just a thought."

James, another industry vet, wrote, "It's been said that the hardest position to staff in mortgage banking is the front desk. One of three things usually happens: they're not very good at answering phones and you call the temp agency yet again, you can't believe they're still answering phones and promote them, or the Metallica tour comes through town and you never hear from them again. In any case, position retention is usually not very long. So with all this talk about acquiring "new blood" in the industry, I think it would be wise for executives to look inward and look at who exactly they are trying to attract. Where technology firms see comparative advantage in twenty-somethings recently out of college, I see comparative advantage in new hires that may have little knowledge of lending or real estate. I once worked for a large mortgage banker who regularly hired recent college graduates with economics, business and accounting degrees. These are usually the individuals who leave first, and looking back, the only ones still in the industry have come with non-traditional degrees, with realistic expectations about themselves, and their employers. In a move towards "new blood" I would recommend going in an opposite direction for small bankers and real estate firms:  don't be afraid to hire outside the norm. The failure of Gekko's children who found a temporary home inside mortgage banking wasn't their greed, but rather, their failure to recognize, or care, about the impact of their work. A seasoned underwriter once told me that she still gets excited when she approves a first-time home buyer. I believe her comments were a reflection of herself, as well as the company who saw her talents, regardless of degree or background."

Guy K. writes, "A couple of things.  First, the barrier of entry into the mortgage business is so high now that it will be hard to restock with new blood.  I have been of the opinion that all the changes that have happened over the years (going way back, not just this recent insanity) has all been structured to push mortgage brokers and bankers out so that only the 'too big to fail' banks remain.  This allows them to control the entire transaction, including real estate, title, escrow and appraisal.  What that really does is stop competition and ultimately makes it more expensive for the consumer. If I was looking at this business today, I would not want to go through all the hoops, especially as they continue to try and limit how much money we can make.  I had always hoped that one of my kids would want to take over my mortgage business when I finally decide to retire, but at this point I don't know that I want them to anymore.  But we will have to see what happens in the next few years and keep our fingers crossed."

According to Generation Opportunity http://generationopportunity.org/, an advocacy group for millennials, the youth unemployment rate in Jan. for those ages 18 to 29 was 13.1%. In addition, 1.7mm young adults were not counted as unemployed by the Department of Labor because they had given up looking for work. Including everything, the actual unemployment rate for Gen Y'ers would be a whopping 16.2% according to the group's calculations. Unemployment for all people stands at 7.9% by comparison. If you're a Gen-Y'er, you're likely to find this comparison troubling. However, from a bank's perspective, it means more opportunity to hire young talent and there is a laundry list of reasons why you want millennials on your team. They are well educated, tech-savvy, care about making a difference and are champion multi-taskers. They bring energy to the bank and are eager for career-enhancing opportunities. What's more, this group can give you a leg up when it comes to marketing products and services that appeal to this sought-after but hard-to-reach group.

Plenty of originators and secondary marketing folks are perfectly happy with the lack of interest rate volatility lately, and happy that housing market news is positive. For some reason the press loves the Case-Shiller 20-city House Price Index, even with its two-month lag, and for December reported consistent gains in house prices at the end of 2012. The 20-city composite index was up 6.8 percent over the year ending in December. But we also had New Home sales for January come in stronger than expected, gaining 15.6% and digging into inventories, while pending home sales were up 4.5%. Even the GDP for the 4th quarter was revised higher - and many analysts anticipate a pick up for the 1st quarter of 2013.

But it is a new week with lots of scheduled news. Tomorrow we have an ISM Services number, hardly a market mover, but Wednesday is the ADP Employment Change stats, Factory Orders, and the Fed's Beige Book (telling us all about economic conditions around the states). Thursday is Jobless Claims, some trade figures, and productivity numbers. Friday is the Big Daddy: the unemployment rate and Nonfarm Payrolls.

But what events could move interest rates? On Thursday we'll have the Bank of Japan and, separately, the European Central Bank (ECB)'s rate decisions, with possible policy measures that could be launched next by the ECB.  As is the case w/the Fed and QE, there is a myopic focus on the core headline interest rates whether they could be cut further but the problems facing Draghi concern more the "transmission mechanism" and how the ECB can ensure its policy is imposed across the entire zone. Most expect a rate cut. Prior to that, starting today, we have a Eurozone finance minister meeting - they can chat about problems in Cyprus, Ireland, and Portugal, the bank union, and foreign exchange. China is clamping down on housing prices (more on that here tomorrow) and will release a large amount of economic data at the end of the week.

And in this country we'll see phase 1 of the bank stress tests Thursday afternoon. The Fed will publish CCAR results (bank stress tests) in two stages w/the first step on Thursday, which will include the tests themselves, and then a week later it will publish its response to bank capital return requests. With all this noise, rates are unchanged from Friday's close: the 10-yr ended at a yield of 1.85%, and this morning it is 1.85% and agency MBS prices are "'unched' a bunch."

(Parental discretion heavily advised.)

A golfer was on vacation in Ireland and while playing he made a hole-in-one. With that a leprechaun jumps out from the trees and says, "I am the lucky leprechaun of the 13th hole. I'll grant you any wish."

The player thought a bit and said, "Could you make me weeny a bit larger?"

"Wish granted." says the leprechaun, as he skips away.

Well, by the time he got to the 14th tee it was showin' below his shorts.

He continued his game and on the 15th hole it was draggin' along behind him.

By the 18th he could hardly make it to the green.

He went straight to the pro shop and asked the pro how to fix it. He was told that legend has it, to see the leprechaun again, you must go back and make another ace.

After purchasing five buckets of balls he made his way back to the 13th and frantically began hitting shot after shot until finally he made the hole-in-one.

Again the leprechaun jumped out saying, "I'll grant you any wish."

The player asked, "Could ya make me legs a bit longer?