In brief: Home sales still rising as prices fall

Home sales in Spokane County improved in February for the fifth consecutive month, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

Buyers closed on 210 homes, up from 177 in January, and 193 in February 2009. The improvement in pending sales was better still, 351, compared with 227 in January and 269 a year earlier.

But the increase in sales did not reverse an erosion in prices. The average of $169,936 was off from the $175,605 of January and $196,832 of February 2009. The median price also fell, to $157,500 from $160,000 in January and $171,000 a year ago.

The increased sales volume also did not translate into a reduction in inventory. There were 2,953 homes on the market March 3, compared with 2,828 at the end of January. In February 2009, the total was 2,626.

So far in 2010, 40 new homes have sold, down from 60 for January and February of 2009.

Bert Caldwell

Obama names choice for Fed vice chairman

Washington – Economist Janet L. Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, is President Barack Obama’s pick to become vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the White House said Friday.

Her appointment would reinforce Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s policy of keeping interest rates low to help stimulate the economy.

Yellen, a former University of California-Berkeley professor who headed President Bill Clinton’s council of economic advisers in the 1990s, would replace 40-year Federal Reserve veteran Donald Kohn on the seven-member board governing the Federal Reserve. Kohn will step down in June.

Most vice chairmen of the central bank follow the chairman’s lead on policy matters. Yellen, 63, who was unavailable for comment, was expected to do so as well.

Los Angeles Times

WaMu reaches deal with JPMorgan, FDIC

Wilmington, Del. – Washington Mutual Inc. has tentatively resolved disputes with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. over some $4 billion at issue in the bank holding company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a WaMu attorney said Friday.

The FDIC seized Washington Mutual’s flagship bank in 2008 and sold its assets to JPMorgan for $1.9 billion. The sale resulted in the two banking companies and the government agency trading lawsuits over roughly $4 billion in disputed deposit accounts.

WaMu attorney Brian Rosen told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath on Friday that JPMorgan has agreed to turn over the money to Washington Mutual after deducting $172 million as its share of tax refunds received.

In return, JPMorgan will get 70 percent of expected tax refunds resulting from WaMu’s prior operating losses that are valued at about $3 billion, with Washington Mutual getting 30 percent.

WaMu also will get about 40 percent of a second round of operating-loss tax refunds valued at about $2.6 billion, with roughly 60 percent going to the FDIC.

“WMI is confident that this agreement will provide substantial recoveries for the company’s creditors, and that it is consistent with WMI’s efforts over the last 18 months to maximize the value of its bankruptcy estate,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Associated Press

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