Ah, here we are starting off a work week with 5 whole days in it. Remember that next Monday is a holiday for some, not all, with the usual questions about it on processing a loan. (Lenders are not to include the date of the holiday in the three-day rescission period for any loans disbursing after that date. Additionally, it should not be included for purposes of the TRID waiting periods.) That is probably the last thing on the minds of employees of The Limited: the company has posted a message on its website saying it is closing all of its 250 stores nationwide. First Sears, then Macy’s, and now this. But there are jobs in residential lending.

Rock Holdings, the parent company of Quicken Loans, announced that it is expanding its portfolio with the acquisition of LowerMyBills.com and ClassesUSA.com from Core Digital Media. The corporate line from the seller's reps is that, "We are being acquired by Rock Holdings Inc., not Quicken. Although Rock Holdings Inc. is also the parent company of Quickens this relationship will not affect our operations in anyway and nothing changes in regards to our services, products, and clients."

LowerMyBills.com's site is a financial services comparison site which allows consumers to shop around for various financial products, including mortgages. Critics are asking, "Will a company owned by Quicken's parent allow consumers unfettered access to other mortgage lenders?" Quicken Loans is already listed as a "featured provider" on the main search page for mortgages.

The acquisition will grow the portfolio of Rock Holdings, which includes Quicken Loans, as well as One Reverse Mortgage, Title Source - a provider of title insurance and settlement services, Quicken Loans Mortgage Services - a mortgage origination platform servicing community banks and credit unions, In-House Realty - a digital platform matching consumers with real estate agents, RocketLoans, and Rock Connections, a strategic marketing company.

The homepage of LowerMyBills.com offers visitors the chance to comparison-shop for a purchase mortgage, a refinance, and a reverse mortgage, as well as auto insurance, life insurance, personal loans, auto loans, and solar energy providers as well. Reporter Ben Lane points out that, "While that's what consumers see, what the site really is a lead generation tool for lenders and other service providers. In fact, the press release Rock Holdings lists the two websites as "two of the nation's leading online marketing service providers." So, for Quicken Loans, the acquisition of LowerMyBills.com will likely serve as another avenue for acquiring new customers.

Trainings and Events -

Getting to Know Your Military Borrowers! If a borrower said, "My CO recommended I come see you. Just PCSed back to CONUS from OCONUS. I have my BAH but my COLA will change. You might see a big EB on my LES. Can you meet with me today about 1400 hours," would you know what they said? If not, you'd be like most other originators before they took the Certified Military Home Specialist Course. National Mortgage Professional Magazine is bringing you this 90-minute course via live webinar on Thursday, January 12 at 2PM EST, sponsored by REMN Wholesale and presented by Beverly Frase of BootsAcrossAmerica.com. By attending you will be able to build a better rapport with veterans in pursuit of their VA loan benefit by understanding their language and way of life, accurately calculate income using the LES (Leave & Earning Statement) and more. After attending you'll receive an e-mail to take the exam online at your convenience to become a Certified Military Home Specialist and receive a certificate upon passing the exam. All at no cost to you! Click here to register.

Plaza's Freddie Mac Home Possible loan program offers low- to moderate-income borrower's low down payment options and flexible source of funds options. Join Plaza's webinar on January 11th to learn about Freddie's latest updates to this program, as well as Plaza's program guidelines and the resources available to you.

On January 9th, Plaza's 60-minute LinkedIn webinar will offer Loan Officers a deeper and better understanding of LinkedIn basics to increase your visibility, and come away with tips on sharing and searching inside LinkedIn. You'll also discover the value that LinkedIn groups provide.

If you are new to the Reverse Mortgage market, Plaza's webinar calendar has a variety of trainings available.

Join Fannie Mae's Single-Family Servicing Team for an educational webinar about Subservicing. Training is recommended for customers interested in learning more about subservicing or are already actively participating as a Master Servicer or Subservicer of Fannie Mae loans. Please register here to take advantage of this opportunity.

HUD Philadelphia Homeownership Center Director Julie Shaffer will be joining the incredible lineup of speakers at the NYMBA Annual Convention April 3-5, 2017 in Albany at the Desmond Hotel. Find out details on the convention webpage.

The Legal Description and Dodd Frank Update will team to provide their 5th annual Regulatory Outlook webinar on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 2:00 - 3:30pm ET. Designed to educate mortgage, title and settlement services professionals on the compliance trends and issues to expect in the New Year. Sponsored by NATIC, this highly-anticipated 90-minute program features instructors Francis "Trip" Riley of Saul Ewing, Loretta Salzano of Franzén and Salzano, and Marx Sterbcow of the Sterbcow Law Group. These nationally-recognized attorneys will join moderator Danielle Kaiser of NATIC in a discussion of the pressing political, regulatory and compliance issues to watch in 2017 and how to prepare your business.

Ditech's January Client Development Calendar offers a variety of comprehensive training's on ditech products and processes. Some options include: VA Basics on January 9thJumbo Products on January 12th,  DU Refi Plus on January 18th, and HomeReady Products on January 25th.

Shifting to the markets...

Good companies and originators will do well regardless of rates, right? The new year started basically how the old year finished: generally positive and consistent with an ongoing moderate economic expansion. One noticeable aspect of the labor market was the raise in wages, which went up 10 cents (0.4%) for the month of December. The wage growth in 2017 is going to be a factor in the Fed's decisions on the Federal Funds Rate, and many expect the FOMC to have 3 rate increases in 2017. Of course, quantifying and sequencing the potential policy levers that the incoming Trump Administration may pull is still challenging, but it is safe to say that most potential economics-related policies would marginally boost inflation. It is also a safe bet that if inflation measures warm up quickly rate hikes will come sooner rather than later.

Friday, after the employment data "crossed the tape" U.S. Treasuries and agency MBS sold off - mostly due to the jump in hourly earnings. Fortunately for mortgage rates, on a relative basis they "tightened" to Treasuries. Still, the 10-year's price worsened nearly .5 and its yield ended the week at 2.42%. MBS prices and the 5-year note worsened about .250, based on coupon.

Are we already seeing wage inflation? Where are we going to get all those workers to fix our infrastructure? The year-on-year pace was the fastest of the recovery and fixed-income investors figure that if fiscal stimulus does materialize from Washington, D.C., the Fed will have to hike rates rapidly to keep PCE inflation near its 2% target.

But in general the odds of a rate hike as soon as the March FOMC meeting crept higher. And there was news of an upward revision to GDP forecasts by the NY Fed's Nowcast. It is nearly impossible to say that the economy, for the most part, isn't doing well. Well, as long as you don't look at traditional retail businesses.

This week we have a full platter of tasty economic news, although there isn't much today aside from yet another spate of Fed Presidents speaking at various venues. Tomorrow we'll have the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, Redbook and Job Opening Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), November Wholesale Inventories, and a $24 billion 3-year Treasury auction.

Wednesday should be quiet with the MBA's application data from last week and a $20 billion 10-year T-Note auction. Thursday the 12th we have December's Import prices ex-oil and Export prices ex-ag., Initial Jobless Claims, a $12 billion 30-year auction, and another batch of Fed officials speaking. Friday we can look forward to updates on retail sales, PPI, business inventories and January University of Michigan sentiment.

With much of the nation digging out from various storms, we start the week with the 10-year yielding 2.38% and agency MBS better by .250 versus Friday's close.


Axia Home Loans continues its expansion with the opening of the company's first Texas branch in Austin. Lance Lemoine, SVP and Division Manager, welcomes the highly successful team of Joe Thweatt, Matt Posey, and Christian Ryan to the Axia Team. They have over 35 years of combined experience and will continue the Axia mission of providing sustainable homeownership to the Austin community. The team joined Axia because of "the family-based culture, Axia's modern technology platform, and the enthusiastic team of employees who are all owners of the 100% employee owned company." Gellert Dornay, President & CEO of Axia Home Loans, noted, "This team brings a proven track record of commitment and loyalty to their customers, referral partners, and teammates. I'm grateful to have not just their refined talents and production, but also the ability to positively impact our culture of ensuring each other's success." If you are interested in becoming an owner or to learn more, click here.

Inlanta Mortgage, Inc. is growing & looking to expand into the Colorado and Texas markets. "Management is currently seeking strong, success-driven, top producers with an entrepreneurial spirit to grow with them. Founded in 1993, Inlanta has been providing top mortgage professionals with platforms to achieve success for over 20 years. Inlanta has been named a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Top Workplace for three consecutive years, has been consistently recognized as one of the '50 Best Mortgage Companies to Work For' by Mortgage Executive Magazine, and has been named one of the country's 'Top Mortgage Employers' by National Mortgage Professional Magazine. They have also received recognition as a top USDA, WHEDA, and FHA lender. Inlanta's top performers have been featured in national publications including Mortgage Professional America's (MPA) Hot 100, Elite Women in Mortgage, and Young Guns lists. If you are looking to join an award-winning team and take charge of your career in 2017, contact Inlanta's SVP of Business Development, Chad Gomoll (262-439-4260)."

If you are ready to bring your mortgage compliance and regulatory expertise to a role of advisor, Republic Bank would like to chat with you. "We have an opening for a Compliance Manager - Lending Operations/Mortgage based at our downtown Louisville KY Corporate Headquarters. As a leading regional bank, we value our commitment to our clients by setting high service standards. If you have a passion for real estate mortgage compliance and client excellence, we'd like to talk. Competitive candidates will have a least 5 years of relevant and recent mortgage experience with supervisory/SME experience preferred. Please apply at www.republicbank.com/careers. Republic Bank is an Equal Opportunity Employer EEO M/F/Disability/Veteran. Questions can be directed to Susan Stuckey.

Gateway Mortgage Group's Correspondent Lending Division welcomes its newest Regional Sales Manager covering the Southern California and Arizona markets, Barbara Burton. With more than 15 years of experience in mortgage banking, Barbara has worked with several national correspondent lenders before joining Gateway. Barbara brings a wealth of experience and a commitment to correspondent lending which perfectly aligns with Gateway's strategic initiatives and platform. Gateway's Correspondent Lending Division, an arm of one of the largest privately held mortgage bankers in the country, offers a wide array of programs, competitive pricing and a unique alternative to the correspondent channel for small and mid-sized financial institutions as well as independent mortgage companies. For more information, please contact Jared Edmonds.

Every year for 26 years, the SMU Cox School of Business Caruth Institute has ranked and recognized the top fastest growing private companies in North Texas. Qualifying for the Dallas 100 requires a company have headquarters in the Dallas area and be an independent, privately held entity. Highlands Residential Mortgage was awarded the eleventh position on the top 100 list. "I am so proud of our team and what we have accomplished. Dedication and teamwork made this accomplishment possible" said Highlands Chief Executive Officer Ken Hickman. In addition, to paying tribute to the top fastest growing companies in the area, the purpose of the awards is to honor the winning companies' ingenuity, commitment and perseverance. The Caruth Institute reports that this year's winners together generated $3.7 billion in sales in 2015.