Losing the Lords Bid to reform UKs upper chamber

first_img Top Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Sponsored Stories LONDON (AP) – Britain’s governmentsays it is making a new attempt to drastically overhaul Britain’s 700-year-old upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords.Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said Tuesday that plans will be published Wednesday which propose replacing unelected peers with a smaller number of mostly elected members who would serve a maximum term of 15 years.Though 600 hereditary members were ejected in 1999, attempts to make more sweeping reforms have long been stalled amid complaints from the House of Lords. Though the 825-member upper chamber does not make laws, it can amend legislation.Cameron’s office said it would be prepared to deploy the rarely used Parliamentary Act, which allows the Commons to force through planned laws in spite of opposition in the Lords.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generationcenter_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Comments   Share   More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Daylast_img read more

Moscow US denial of bail to Russians unfair

first_img 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Sponsored Stories A Houston judge last week ordered Alexander Fishenko, owner of Houston-based Arc Electronics Inc., and two other defendants to federal custody in Brooklyn, New York, where they will face charges on Oct. 18.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Comments   Share   Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s Foreign Ministry has deplored a U.S. judge’s decision to deny bail to Russian citizens accused of conspiring to illicitly sell advanced technology to Russia.Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the judge’s refusal to grant bail to the detained Russian citizens was based on “far-fetched reasons” and called the verdict “unfair.”She said Friday that Russian diplomats and defense attorneys will seek to overturn the ruling and demand an end to “the psychological and moral pressure being applied on the detained Russians to force them to `voluntarily’ admit their guilt.” Top Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectlast_img

China readies national carbon market to fight climate change

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility In this May 12, 2015 photo, Zhou Cheng, vice president of the Beijing Environmental Exchange speaks during an interview at his office in Beijing, China. With China’s greenhouse gas emissions doubling over the past decade, the fate of the world’s climate depends on whether China can cut back on the coal-fired power plants, automobiles and other emission sources that have released hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. With next year’s rollout, a successful carbon offset market would clearly play a big part in China’s larger plan to rein in emissions. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) BEIJING (AP) — At first, the numbers and company names flashing on a big board in Beijing’s financial district suggest a booming market.A closer look indicates otherwise: The scrolling list rotates the same dozen or so trades, all from last year.The lights from the Beijing Environment Exchange — one of seven pilot markets in China for trading carbon — raises questions for the country as it prepares for next year’s roll-out of a nationwide system that could help the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide rein in its emissions. Parents, stop beating yourself up Antung Anthony Liu, an economics professor at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, said that if done right, the markets could turn China’s epic climate change fight into an international investment opportunity.“China goes through a process where it tries to experiment with a policy before rolling it out,” Liu said. “To my mind, the markets haven’t the intended hopeful effect yet but capacity has been built. These markets clearly exist. And hopefully one of them will be chosen as the best one and the nation will go forward from that.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Other markets use different methods to set emission targets and determine who has to participate. Five of the seven markets give away carbon credits every year and then let companies auction off their excess credits. Hubei is the country’s biggest market by volume of carbon traded.For state-owned firms such the Chinese capital’s largest power utility, Beijing’s pilot market has forced business plans to factor in carbon emissions, said Jeremy Guo, executive vice president of the utility’s energy investment arm. One result is a higher investment in renewable energy such as solar and the capture and reuse of heat emitted during some industrial processes, he said.“We want to make our role of carbon asset management a new standard for the group company, not just to buy and sell to get some profit,” Guo said.What comes next year will depend on how the seven pilot markets shape up. They could link up so that a company in Beijing in the north could trade with another in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. Chen said another idea would be to create separate offset markets around specific industries such as steel, cement energy or construction rather than connect the separate pilots operating according to different rules. Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona A successful carbon offset, or “cap-and-trade,” market could play a big part in cutting China’s emissions — and help the world tackle global warming.Already launched in Europe, California and a few other spots, such carbon offset markets limit how much carbon can be emitted per year by factories and businesses. They then let those businesses that release less carbon than the cap sell to other companies permissions to emit whatever’s left.So far, the pilots have failed to make a noticeable dent in carbon emissions, with about 978 million yuan, or $158 million, traded since their launch in 2013, compared to the 7.2 billion euros, or about $8 billion, of carbon offsets that were traded in the European market in its first year of operation, 2006. Many companies required to buy carbon credits have waited until the last minute of compliance periods to make their trades, which has raised concerns about low liquidity in the market. Some observers question the reliability of data recording how much companies are emitting.Chinese officials, however, say the pilot markets aren’t meant to significantly cut the country’s carbon profile yet. Instead, they say they are learning important lessons from their experiments and will use them in what will soon become the world’s biggest carbon offset market. Comments   Share   Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories Kathy Kong, CEO of Beijing-based trading firm Timing Carbon, said the pilot markets still have a lot of room to grow. For example, the markets still offer only spot trading with no futures markets, which greatly limits the potential market size. Regulators must also step in to prop up falling carbon offset prices and keep prices at other times from reaching unsustainable highs.“This is still a market created by policy,” Kong said. “The policy needs to follow the market at some time.”Starting in 2013, China set up the seven pilot markets in the country’s largest cities — Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenzhen — as well as the industrial provinces of Guangdong and Hubei. Since mid-April, the seven markets have traded a total of 31.2 million tons of carbon. The European market in its first year traded more than 10 times that amount of carbon.By design, each market has set up its own rules, with an eye for testing approaches for a national market.In Beijing, any company that emits more than 10,000 tons of carbon a year — equal to the household and vehicle emissions of more than 400 American households — must join the offset market, which means it receives a yearly cap on its emissions and must buy carbon credits if it wants to emit more carbon. Credit prices have generally run from $55 to $75 per ton, and the penalty for exceeding the limit can cost three-to-five times the usual credit price. Around 550 companies in Beijing now take part in the exchange. Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies “China is taking this step to accept its responsibility in stopping climate change,” said Zhou Cheng, the Beijing exchange’s vice president. “This affects industry in a legal, scientific way, and it lets them form their business plans while looking at carbon emissions too.”If anything, the national plan heralds a strategy change for a country that’s so far used its one-party system to order everything from factory closures to barbecue bans by giving companies a money-making incentive to cut their carbon emissions, said Jeff Swartz, international policy director at the Geneva-based nonprofit group the International Emissions Trading Association.For some Chinese companies, selling excess carbon offset credits could bring in millions of dollars a year.“China is using a number of different policies, both command-and-control but also market policies,” Swartz said. “(Emissions trading) will provide a fundamental solution to allow China to peak its emissions.”The past decade, however, has been a spotty one for carbon credit experiments in China.Five years ago, European Union officials ended a carbon offset plan that paid Chinese companies to destroy the greenhouse gas HFC-23 after learning that the companies were producing the gas only to be paid to destroy it. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The vital role family plays in societylast_img read more

Contours of Obamas legacy form with help of unlikely allies

first_img Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall How do cataracts affect your vision? Despite the unfinished business Obama will leave behind, Thursday’s health care ruling largely answered what has long been one of the biggest questions looming over his White House: Would the sweeping health care overhaul that has fueled so much Republican hostility toward Obama survive his presidency?Now, that answer is all but guaranteed to be yes.The Supreme Court ruling marked the second time the justices have saved the health care law, with Roberts writing the majority opinion both times. In an ironic twist, Obama as a senator voted against Roberts when he was nominated by former Republican President George W. Bush.While House Republicans may still hold votes to repeal the health care measure, as they have already done more than 50 times, the Senate and Obama’s veto power prevent such efforts from going any further. And even if Obama is succeeded by a Republican president, fully repealing the law could become less politically palatable given the millions of Americans who have gained health care coverage through its mandates.“The 6-3 decision is strong validation of the constitutionality of the law,” White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said of the court’s ruling. “Coupled with over 16 million people who currently have health care who didn’t have it before, that makes it very difficult to unwind.” WASHINGTON (AP) — Long past the prime of his presidency, Barack Obama is defying the lame-duck label and solidifying the contours of his legacy with the help of unlikely allies in Congress and the Supreme Court.Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the high court preserved Obama’s signature health care law Thursday, hours before a Republican-controlled Congress paved the way for an Asia-Pacific trade pact at the center of the president’s international agenda. The Supreme Court also handed Obama a surprise win by upholding a key tool used to fight housing discrimination. Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies But few in the White House or elsewhere in the nation’s capital expect this brief detente between Obama and the GOP to last for long, especially as they stare down deadlines this fall on taxes and spending — issues that have rivaled health care in driving deep divisions between the Democratic White House and Republican lawmakers.“It’s going to give the White House some momentum going into the fall,” said Jim Manley, a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “But I don’t think anyone can expect the efforts to work with Republicans on trade to translate into help on these tax and spending issues.”__Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDCCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Still, some Republican presidential candidates insisted that remained their goal.“This decision is not the end of the fight against Obamacare,” said Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor. “I will work with Congress to repeal and replace this flawed law with conservative reforms that empower consumers with more choices and control over their health care decisions.”Obama had to flip Washington’s standard political scorecard in order to get support for the Asia-Pacific trade pact. While Republicans are largely supportive of free trade, many of Obama’s fellow Democrats fear such agreements put American workers at a disadvantage and have weak environmental protections.Just two weeks ago, Democrats dealt Obama an embarrassing defeat on trade, leaving him searching for a solution with many of the same Republicans lawmakers who decry the health care law.The unusual coalition succeeded. On Wednesday, Obama secured the authority to get fast approval for a final Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, and on Thursday, Congress sent a workers’ assistance package to his desk.White House officials cast Obama’s successful dealings with Republicans as evidence of what they had hoped would be another piece of the president’s legacy: an ability to work with his political opponents and curb Washington’s intense partisanship. Comments   Share   “This was a good day for America,” Obama said, speaking from the White House Rose Garden shortly after the court rulings.For a president deep into his second term, the legal and legislative victories were a vindication of policy priorities that have sapped his political capital and exposed rifts with his own Democratic Party. The back-to-back successes also energized a weary White House, with senior officials and longtime advisers making little effort to hide their glee.“I don’t think that a lot of people expected that a lame-duck president could still very actively lead on every major issue being debated today,” said Bill Burton, a former White House and campaign adviser to Obama.The coming days could bring further clarity to president’s legacy, as U.S. negotiators work feverishly to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of a June 30 deadline. While securing an elusive agreement would mark a major foreign policy breakthrough for Obama, it could be months or even years before it’s known if a deal successfully prevents Iran from building a bomb.Against the backdrop of his recent successes, Obama will also confront the stark limitations of his presidency when he travels to Charleston, South Carolina, Friday to deliver a eulogy for victims of last week’s massacre at a black church. Obama has failed to make any progress on gun control legislation, and even against the backdrop of the tragedy in South Carolina, he made clear he had given up hope of pursuing such measures again during his remaining 19 months in office.last_img read more

Police arrest Kuwaiti national others for mosque bombing

first_imgKUWAIT CITY (AP) — Police have arrested a number of people, among them a Kuwaiti citizen, suspected of being behind a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people, Kuwait’s Interior Ministry said early Sunday.The announcement came just hours after thousands of people took part in a mass funeral procession on Saturday for those killed in the country’s first terror attack in more than two decades. Comments   Share   Top Stories Sponsored Stories Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy An upstart local affiliate of the Islamic State group, calling itself the Najd Province, claimed responsibility for the bombing, which took place during midday Friday prayers inside one of Kuwait’s oldest Shiite mosques. The IS group views Shiites as heretics and is fighting Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.The Interior Ministry said in its statement that one of the suspects arrested is a Kuwaiti man who was using his home as hideout for the others. Police said another suspect is a 25-year-old from Kuwait’s “bidoon” community, which is largely made up of descendants of desert nomads considered stateless by the government. They have long claimed the government is depriving them of citizenship and rights.The arrests highlight the threat posed to Western-allied monarchies in the Gulf from young locals lured to the IS group’s extremist ideology and its call for supporters to carry out homegrown attacks.Police did not say how many suspects have been arrested. The government-linked Al-Jarida newspaper reported that seven suspects had been detained overnight.The suicide bombing has rattled Kuwait, known for its relative wealth and stability. Not all those killed in the bombing were buried in Kuwait. Some were sent to be buried in Najaf, Iraq at a Shiite holy site that is believed to be blessed. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said three Iranians were among the people killed in the attack.Within hours of the attack, Kuwait’s ruler Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who is in his mid-80s, visited the site of the bombing. The government also declared that the country’s main Sunni mosque, the Grand Mosque, would be open for mourners to pay their respects over the next three days.Despite a heavy police presence at the funeral, volunteers set up their own checkpoint at the gate of the cemetery to search men. The funeral was attended by several politicians, including the country’s parliament speaker, Marzouq Al-Ghanim.“The unity of the people of our country is incredible,” he said at the funeral. “If you look around you will see Sunnis and Shiites, Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, all present to give their condolences to the families of the victims.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.center_img Sunni groups in Kuwait and leaders from across the Middle East strongly condemned the attack, which Gulf officials say was aimed at provoking a backlash from Shiites and sparking sectarian war. More than a third of Kuwait’s 1.2 million citizens are believed to be Shiite. The majority of Kuwaitis are Sunni Muslims, though Shiite Muslims hold seats in Kuwait’s elected parliament and Cabinet posts.Braving the hot summer temperatures, mourners from as far as eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain attended Saturday’s funeral and carried the Kuwaiti flag; others carried a simple black flag to signify mourning. Some in the crowd chanted, “Sunnis and Shiites are brothers!”Every so often they chanted “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is Great” in Arabic.Women ululated to praise those who had been killed during prayer and in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, now in its second week, claiming they died as martyrs. They threw rose petals at the bodies, which were shrouded in the Kuwaiti flag.A mother and her two young daughters passed out flower wreaths to place on the graves. To help people keep cool, a young man was seen misting people’s faces with water. Still, paramedics were on hand to assist those who fainted from the heat as temperatures reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius). Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more

United expands Pacific footprint with new routes

first_imgSource = ETB News: Lewis Wiseman United Airlines has launched four new Pacific routes, beginning with nonstop service between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, and between San Francisco and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.United Airlines vice president of networks Brian Znotins has said these four new routes further strengthen United’s presence in the Pacific“New nonstop service to Melbourne and Haneda from our powerhouse West Coast hubs, and the additional new flights from our Guam hub to both Seoul and Shanghai, offer our customers convenience and schedule options that no other airline can offer,” Mr Znotins said.The airline will fly the Los Angeles – Melbourne route six times weekly with the new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, and offers convenient connections at Los Angeles to Canada and other US destinations.In addition to these new routes, United will launch two new routes from its Guam hub at A.P. Won Pat International Airport, including a daily service to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport and twice-weekly service to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.These services will be the first nonstop service from Guam to mainland China, United currently provides nonstop service from the hub in Guam to more than 17 destinations in the Asia/Pacific region.last_img read more

Malaysia Airlines wins big at Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky Aw

first_imgMalaysia Airlines wins big at Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky AwardsMalaysia Airlines’ revamped business and first class wine and champagne list has proven a winner, collecting an impressive five gongs, including Best First Class Cellar, in the prestigious Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky 2016 Awards presented at Trinity House Tower Hill in London yesterday by Charles Metcalf, co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge.Competing against 33 airlines, Malaysia Airlines also scored:Gold for Best First Class White Wine (Chateau La Louvière Blanc 2013 Pessac-Léognan, France)Bronze for First Class Red (Schubert Wairarapa Syrah 2013, Martinborough, New Zealand)Bronze for First Class Sparkling Wine (Champagne Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine 2004, France)And a special mention for Business Class White (Wairau River Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Wairau River, Marlborough, New Zealand)The sought-after awards recognise the best wine served by airlines worldwide in business and first class and were judged by four wine aficionados from the International Wine Challenge who independently blind-tasted and scored each entry.Malaysia Airlines Regional Manager for Australia, New Zealand and South West Pacific, Bennet Stephens, said, “At a time where many airlines are reducing the level of food and beverages on-board flights, Malaysia Airlines deliberately chose to invest in quality products for our customers, so we are thrilled to have this recognised.”In October Malaysia Airlines unveiled its new range of first and business class wine and champagne which was especially selected for serving at 40,000ft since taste buds are reduced in the pressurised cabin, meaning wine doesn’t breathe in quite the same way as it would on the ground. Malaysia Airlines’ First Class Cellar includes:(Champagne) Champagne Joseph Perrier Cuvee Josephine 2004: A fine fruity yet vinous element, lively yet perfectly balanced. Flavours of spice, dried fruits and ripe fresh fruits over caramel abound tied together by the firm mineral back-bone.(Red) Chateau Frombrauge 2012, AOC St-Emilion Grand Cru Classes, Bordeaux: A concentrated and layered texture is filled with scents of dark currants and black cherries. Finishing with ripe tannin and roundness, the wine is approachable and with grilled steak is a classic combo.(Red) Schubert Wairarapa Syrah 2013, Martinborough: Stylistically French and lively on the palate, red cherries and black currants, pure spice – cassia and cinnamon bark with seductive aromatics that extend to elegance with subtle layers of minerality, with a central core of savoury earthy notes that offer balance and structure.(Red) Domaine Chandon de Briailles Pernand Vergelesse 1er cru “les Vergelesses” 2011, Burgundy: A wine that is rich, full and not very tannic. It rapidly develops aromas of fresh fruit with undertone of mineral before revealing a lightly spicy character coupled with seductive red berries and dried flowers.(Red) Bodega Piedra Negra Malbec Reserve 2014, Mendoza, Argentina: An intense ruby red. Complex, with a mix of red berries and spicy aromas of clove and black pepper enhanced further with delicate notes of chocolate and coffee that come from its time in oak. A structured and complex wine, with pleasant tannins which bring sweetness and a long finish.(White) Stonier Lyncroft Vineyards Chardonnay 2013, Victoria: An impeccably pure and clean varietal character with attractive nectarine, fig and melon fruit with an overriding citrus fruit spectrum and a mineral acid backbone.(White) Chateau La Louviere Blanc 2013, AOC Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux: Floral and fruity (Granny Smith apple) nuances come through in the taste, as well as some grapefruit notes. The wine is very fresh and well-structured, with a beautiful long finish featuring citrus flavours. It is tremendously enjoyable with risotto, shrimp, scallops, etc.(White) Pikes “Traditionale” Clare Valley Riesling 2015, South Australia: Fresh, crisp and dry; the palate is brimming with the lemon, lime and slate characters all nicely balanced by bright acidity that provides much of the drive to the finish.(Dessert) Chateau Monteau Raba 2010, AOC Sauternes, Bordeaux: Offering dried mango, almond and a touch of quince, all with fine delineation and intensity, the palate is medium-bodied with good acidity and tension, the minerality really coming through towards the beautifully composed finish.For Business Class customers: (Golden Club Class)(Champagne) Champagne Duval Leroy “Fleur du Champagne” Premier Cru NV: A lofty, fragrant source with a hint of minerals. Blended with Pinot Noir to enhance the complexity and backbone, this distinguished cuvee has the perfect balance between elegance and power.(Red) Chateau Doyac 2011, AOC Haut Medoc, Bordeaux: A dark, dense colour, lots of cherry and sweet berry fruit and spicy wood notes in its medium-bodied, nicely concentrated, round, generous personality.(Red) D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale: Laden with dark cherries, rhubarb, plums and aniseed, complemented by a lick of fine, subtle oak and lifted with a sprinkling of pepper and spice. Generosity of fruit weight, combined with balanced, chewy tannins.(Red) Bodega Piedra Negra Malbec Reserve 2014, Mendoza, Argentina:  An intense ruby red. Complex, with a mix of red berries and spicy aromas of clove and black pepper enhanced further with delicate notes of chocolate and coffee that come from its time in oak.(White) Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough: Intensely scented of passionfruit, gooseberry with touches of fresh limes and lemon zest, mown grass and green peppers.(White) Maison Trenel Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014, Burgundy: A brilliant light gold colour coupled with good fruit intensity on the nose with touches of yellow flowers infusing the citrus fruit.(White) Pikes “Traditionale” Clare Valley Riesling 2015, South Australia:  A fresh, crisp and dry; the palate is brimming with the lemon, lime and slate characters all nicely balanced by bright acidity that provides much of the drive to the finish.(White) Chateau Monteau Raba 2010, AOC Sauternes: A medium-bodied wine with good acidity and tension. The minerality really coming through towards the beautifully composed finish.Source = Malaysia Airlineslast_img read more

Royal Plaza on Scotts wins Asia Pacifics Best Independent Hotel

first_imgRoyal Plaza on Scotts wins Asia Pacific’s Best Independent HotelRoyal Plaza on Scotts wins Asia Pacific’s Best Independent HotelRoyal Plaza on Scotts (RP) is awarded its 10th win as Asia Pacific’s Best Independent Hotel award at the recent 28th Annual TTG Travel Awards 2017.The annual awards ceremony honours the best travel and trade organisations in the Asia-Pacific travel industry for their achievements and contributions. Winners are determined through votes cast by travel industry professionals across the Asia-Pacific region.“This TTG Asia Pacific’s Best Independent Hotel award marks our 10th consecutive award which is an incredible achievement for the hotel. We owe the success to our Chief Experience Officers* (CEOs) as they play key roles in creating a brand with a heart. We will be sharing the joy by celebrating the big win with our CEOs and we look forward to progress with them every step of the way in both their professional and personal capacities, simply because “Happy Staff makes Happy Guests”. We strongly believe that by taking care of our people, they will in turn, take care of the business,” said Patrick Fiat, General Manager and Chief Experience Officer of RP.Royal Plaza on Scotts rolls out a series of events for both its CEOs and guests so that everyone can share the joy! A week-long celebration is held for the CEOs with fun-filled activities such as laser tag, terrarium workshop and massage sessions, and a daily feast whipped up by chefs of award-winning buffet restaurant, Carousel.Doing what the hotel’s CEOs do best, which is to have fun, the CEOs surprised guests with a two-minute flash mob to celebrate the milestone win! Please watch the video in the link below.Link: https://www.facebook.com/royalplazasingaporehotel/videos/10150969493969955/For the guests, Royal Plaza on Scotts is offering ten $10 weekend stays to its Facebook followers to add on to the excitement! The ten rooms are slated to be released on Saturday and Sunday, 7 and 8 October 2017. The booking link will be released on Royal Plaza on Scotts’ official Facebook page, @royalplazasingaporehotel. The $10 weekend stay in a Superior room, worth S$260++, comes with complimentary buffet breakfast for two, high speed Wi-Fi, Nespresso coffee and in-room minibar.An ice-cream giveaway is taking place to sweeten the win! Ice-cream made by Royal Plaza on Scotts’ pastry chefs will be given away on Saturday, 14 October 2017, from 2pm to 4pm. Popular local flavours such as Chendol, Kaya Toast, Coconut and Salted Egg Yolk are selected to thank guests for their support. S$2000 worth of scoops are expected to be given away at the façade of the hotel!*Chief Experience Officers refer to talents of Royal Plaza on Scotts, as every talent plays a key role. Each touch point is significant to the guests’ experiences.Source = Royal Plaza on Scottslast_img read more

Six Senses Duxton opens

first_imgSource = Six Senses Duxton Pearl Suite BedroomSix Senses Duxton opensThe brand’s first city hotel brings sustainable, community-focused luxury hospitality to SingaporeSix Senses Duxton, the first city hotel from acclaimed hospitality and wellness company Six Senses, is now open at 83 Duxton Road in historic Tanjong Pagar in the Chinatown area of Singapore. Along with sister hotel Six Senses Maxwell opening later this year, Six Senses Duxton seeks to engage with the surrounding neighborhood and provide a new level of sustainability practiced in Singapore.“Six Senses Duxton aims not only to deliver a five-star luxury hotel experience, but to actively improve the surrounding neighborhood and natural environment as we do so,” says Six Senses Chief Executive Officer Neil Jacobs. “Singapore has been my home for almost 20 years, specifically the colorful enclave of Tanjong Pagar. Together with our team, I am delighted to bring our unique new urban Six Senses experience to life in Singapore, and for us to enrich and be enriched by the Duxton and Maxwell communities.”In addition to infusing a touch of local culture and quirkiness into each property, Six Senses is known for its commitment to authenticity, community, and sustainability. Six Senses Duxton was originally a row of traditional shophouses, re-designed and re-utilized to harmoniously blend the shophouse aesthetic with the comfort of a modern hotel. As a conservation project, Six Senses Duxton has received the Urban Redevelopment Authority Architectural Heritage Award. “We look forward to welcoming you to experience a hotel that is truly different from the inside out. Numerous processes and procedures are in place to ensure that we truly ‘walk the walk’ in terms of adhering to our commitments to sustainability and conservation,” says General Manager Murray Aitken. “We are focused on the creation and operation of self-sustaining hotels that are supportive of social equity and leave a legacy for future generations.”Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell are focused on enhancing social and economic benefits to neighboring communities. Six Senses supports Singapore entrepreneurs by looking to local suppliers before a search for any product or service is expanded regionally. From in-room minibar items to restaurant ingredients to hotel operating supplies, priority has always been to source and partner locally. In this spirit, exclusive partnerships within the community will be announced in the coming months, giving Six Senses guests additional access to unique local experiences and extending the brand’s reach into the surrounding community.DesignSustainably restored by acclaimed British designer Anouska Hempel (Hempel and Blake’s hotels, London), Six Senses Duxton features a diverse mix of Chinese, Malay and European elements. Upon entering the hotel, guests are in for an eccentric, elegant surprise — large golden fans and strong hues of black, gold and yellow are layered with Chinese screens and calligraphy wallpaper from Anouska’s personal collection. Alluring black and gold settees and communal black lacquer tables give way to the hotel reception and a private sitting room to the right, and an intimate bar and restaurant named Yellow Pot to the left.Modern Chinese screens of black lacquered wood and glass divide the various sections of the ground floor restaurant and bar from the lobby area. Similarly clad in a striking palette of black, gold and yellow, the 50-seat Yellow Pot restaurant will offer classic and innovative Chinese cuisine, and the adjacent 20-seat, antiquarian themes Yellow Pot bar will serve handcrafted cocktails featuring local ingredients and a list of premium pours. The bar features a heritage stained glass ceiling in circular motifs, which have been replicated in a more modern design to adorn the surrounding walls as well. Spatial arrangements and furnishings come together to create a lively and eclectic urban ambience accentuated by Anouska’s hand-picked selections of luxurious fabrics, furnishings, lighting and ornaments.Yellow Pot will serve hotel guests during the soft opening period until it opens to the public on 14 May for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its two semi-private dining rooms can accommodate five persons and ten persons separately.Anouska has given each of the hotel’s 49 guestrooms and suites a unique individuality across eight themed categories so that no two are exactly the same. Room categories feature locally and historically inspired names, such as Nutmeg, Shophouse, Opium and Pearl. The dramatic two-story Duxton Duplex Suites complete with restored original spiral staircase, ground floor Skylight Suites and the singular Montgomerie Suite are the largest in terms of space. Dramatic jet-black Opium Rooms and Suites feature black walls and seductive black four-poster Chinese platform beds, while the Pearl Suites are a burst of gleaming white walls, white bedding and dressers inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Whatever the size or category, Anouska envisioned the in-room experience to be romantic, stylish and sophisticated.Small or large, sultry or light, the various rooms are elegantly juxtaposed to offer each guest a different stay experience and the ability to be surprised and delighted during return visits. Elegant bespoke furnishings and the designer ambience typify the experience in every way. Chinese calligraphy brushes, bamboo screens and bold decorative pillows feature throughout as additional sensory elements.Each room or suite features a truly top-flight mirrored minibar stocked with craft spirits, premium mixers, whole citrus and cut crystal glassware. Other standout amenities include individually controlled air-conditioning, Naturalmat organic mattress, bathroom amenities by The Organic Pharmacy, flat panel television with satellite channels and Bose Bluetooth speaker.Sustainability Sustainability is measured, monitored and managed under the Six Senses Sustainability Program. In addition to the environmental considerations implemented in the redevelopment of the hotels’ heritage buildings, the properties’ Sustainability Fund is comprised of 0.5 percent of revenues and 50 percent of the sale of Six Senses drinking water. The Fund will be used to support social and environmental projects at a very local level.Waste ManagementSix Senses Duxton’s commitment to the environment and sustainability begins with a hotel-wide drive to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle waste. In an attempt to refuse waste, Six Senses Duxton continually engages suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging and to purchase items in bulk where possible. Styrofoam boxes used for shipping supplies are sent back to the suppliers for reuse. Recyclable materials are segregated in-house. Plastic products, especially single-use plastic and packaging are systematically refused.Additionally, Six Senses Duxton does not use cut flowers for decorative purposes, plastic linings for trash bins, plastic drinking straws, plastic water bottles, or paper cups. Other paper resources are fully optimized and usage is monitored closely.WaterSix Senses Duxton produces its own Six Senses drinking water — sparkling and still — by treating, purifying, mineralizing and bottling its own drinking water in order to mitigate the negative environmental and social aspects associated with imported water in plastic bottles. The hotel’s state-of-the art mineralization machine produces nano-artesian water that has a stable quality and zero-carbon footprint.Six Senses Water is offered complimentary within rooms and suites. When dining in Yellow Pot, water is priced at SGD 3.50 per person, 50 percent of which is invested in regional projects that deliver healthy drinking water to those without access to clean water.Energy & EnvironmentTaking into account the heat and humidity of Singapore, insulated glazing has been applied to the windows throughout the hotel in order to reduce heat and reduce energy required for cooling. All rooms and suites have been designed to take advantage of passive cooling, and shutter panels create shade, thus reducing the need for air-conditioning. Where air-conditioning is required, only low energy consuming units are used whilst trying to keep the temperature as high as comfortably possible.Energy efficient LED lights are utilized throughout the hotel. Lights are controlled by dimmer switches and outdoor lightings are on timers in order to save electricity.Environmentally-friendly biodegradable cleaning products are used in the kitchens and housekeeping.WellnessAs with all Six Senses properties, Six Senses Duxton allows guests to explore and prioritizes wellness during their stay. Community-based wellness activities include everything from unique neighborhood and nature discovery walking tours; fitness classes like outdoor yoga and indoor cycling through neighborhood partners and workshops on the art of crafting artisanal coffee and appreciating Chinese teas.Professor Zhang Mao Ji of Long Zhong Tang — a reputable Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician with over 40 years of experience and a successful practice across the road — will offer consultations and a medicinal herbal dispensary for in-house guests.Each day guests will also receive two chilled 30ml glass bottles of complimentary tinctures formulated by Professor Zhang and placed in the in-room mini-bar. One tincture is designed to be taken first thing in the morning, the other before going to bed at night, with several varieties on rotation. Examples include a daytime tincture of hawthorn slices, rose buds and roselle to improve appetite and body detoxification; and a night concoction of snow chrysanthemum, marigold, lavender to prevent insomnia, improve blood circulation and reduce anxiety.During turndown service, a localized Wellness Bag is placed in each room. For Six Senses Duxton, this wellness amenity includes traditional Chinese herbal Po Chai Pills to help relieve gastric ailments; the iconic Tiger Balm for relieving everything from headaches to stuffy nose and insect bites; brain teaser toys and puzzles; an adult coloring card and pencils; soothing nutmeg oil for muscle aches; a reusable cotton tote bag; and the Six Senses Little Book of Wellness.Wellness at Six Senses Duxton offers something for everyone to explore and incorporate into daily life to achieve an increased balance, overall health and wellbeing. When Six Senses Maxwell opens later this year, it will include one of Six Senses’ acclaimed spas to further extend the wellness programs of both properties.Six Senses Duxton is located at 83 Duxton Road, Singapore 089540. Rates begin from SGD 390++ per night. For reservations, please contact +65 6914 1428 or email reservations-duxton@sixsenses.com.Opening OfferGuests can enjoy an exclusive opening offer of 15 percent savings on the Best Available Rate when booking online through Six Senses’ website. Offer includes welcome amenities and unlimited WiFi access.Terms & Conditions: Valid for stays until 30 June 2018. The offer is applicable for all room and suite categories. A credit card guarantees and a prepayment in full is required to secure the booking. Bookings are non-refundable and non-cancellable. Offer is subject to change without notice.last_img read more

Trinidad Tobago welcomes new automated passport system

first_imgThe Ministry of Tourism of Trinidad & Tobago recently launched a new automated border control system at the Piarco International Airport. Randall Mitchell, Minister of Tourism said, “Any initiative that positively impacts our tourists or returning residents’ experience when arriving at our national airports is a win for the local tourism sector.”Mitchell added that whilst this new project will be in “test- phase” for some time, it will bring Trinidad and Tobago in line with present-day border control practices in existence at many international ports of entry. The Tourism Minister added that the potential for reduced time spent in long immigration lines and the possibility for families to be processed together will be a pleasant and welcomed upgrade to this country’s existing entry-processing activity for both tourists and returning residents to our shores in the not too distant future. The Minister also added that these benefits, though simple, add up when one is making an assessment of their experience when visiting a foreign country or returning home.The new automated border control system uses facial recognition and collects users’ fingerprints. It also verifies the validity of travel documents by checking these documents against an international database of photos, passports and ID cards.last_img read more

Europe Debt Crisis Keeps Mortgage Rates at Record Lows

first_imgEurope Debt Crisis Keeps Mortgage Rates at Record Lows Mortgage rates ran a tepid streak started three weeks ago by hovering at around 4 percent this week, according to “”Freddie Mac””:http://www.freddiemac.com/, largely because investors continue to flee European sovereign bonds for the safe haven of U.S. Treasury debt.[IMAGE]Mortgage giant Freddie Mac and finance Web site “”Bankrate.com””:http://www.bankrate.com/ released weekly surveys that tracked mortgage rates.For Freddie, rates for the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inched forward by a percentage point, placing it at 4 percent after the loan averaged 3.99 percent. Bankrate.com noted the same difference, reporting that the 30-year loan fell to 4.24 percent this week, down from 4.25 percent last week.The finance Web site saw the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage slide from 3.50 percent last week to 3.47 percent this week, while Freddie observed a 3.31-percent average, up from 3.30 percent.””This was another week of pretty tame movement in mortgage rates,”” “”Greg McBride””:http://www.bankrate.com/blogs/federal-reserve/about-greg-mcbride-cfa.aspx, a senior financial analyst [COLUMN_BREAK]with Bankrate.com, tells _MReport_. “”The key driver of rates remains the European debt crisis, which is helping to keep mortgage rates near record lows.””The European debt crisis continues to rattle markets. Backing off of a popular referendum for an unpopular bailout package with austerity measures, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou stepped down recently, with mainland technocrat Lucas Papademos replacing the ousted leader.Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi added to the brouhaha over possibilities for sovereign default in Europe ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô a scenario that would devastate financial and capital markets, if disorderly ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô by also recently resigning his position.Less confidence in European sovereign bonds continues to drive investors to Treasury debt, widening Treasury yields and keeping a heel on mortgage rates at a time when a double-dip recession still seems possible for the global economy.””Frank Nothaft””:http://www.freddiemac.com/bios/exec/nothaft.html, Freddie’s VP and chief economist, highlighted low mortgage rates in a statement while citing “”potential for further gains in the near term”” for the economy.He also cited rising retail sales, consumer confidence, and homebuilder confidence as reasons to believe that the economy may soon see a boost.The 5-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) also fell by one percentage point for Freddie, which recorded 2.97 percent for the loan, down from 2.98 percent last week. The 1-year ARM went up from 2.95 percent to 2.98 percent.Bankrate.com meanwhile saw 3.17 percent for the 5- and 1-year ARMs, just one point above 3.16 percent last week. Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Agents & Brokers Bankrate Debt Crisis Euro European Union Fixed-Rate Mortgage Freddie Mac Housing Affordability Investment Investors Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Bonds Mortgage Rates Processing Service Providers Treasury Department Treasury Yields 2011-11-17 Ryan Schuette November 17, 2011 421 Views center_img in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing Sharelast_img read more

Prudential Real Estate Reports Greater Confidence Among Buyers Sellers

first_img “”Prudential Real Estate””:http://www.prudentialrealestate.com/ released Tuesday the results of its first-quarter Consumer Outlook Survey, revealing Americans’ sentiment toward real estate is growing more and more favorable.[IMAGE]According to the results of the survey, homeownership remains important to 96 percent of Americans, especially among women and those in Generations X and Y.In addition, 77 percent of consumers feel the real estate market and property values will continue to recover, representing an improvement of four percentage points from Q4 2012 and a seven-point jump over Q1 2012.In terms of motivation, buyers said they are mostly spurred by historically low interest rates and attractive home prices in many markets, with 87 percent of respondent saying this kind of environment is the best time to buy.””Anticipation seems to be building for both buyers and sellers this spring buying season,”” said Earl Lee, CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC and president of Prudential Real Estate. “”Consumers are aware that the market is moving and, with growing optimism, more are weighing their homeownership options.””Furthermore, responses show that Americans’ renewed optimism in the housing market has expanded participation from both buyers and sellers. Confidence among “”contemplators””–those who have considered buying or selling a home within the past year but haven’t committed–increased to 69 percent in Q1, its highest level in the last year. Primary reasons why that group hasn’t yet made a move include “”waiting for the opportunity”” (44 percent) and “”haven’t yet found the right home”” (32 percent).””Our survey data shows that people are feeling better about their personal situations and the U.S. economy,”” said Stephen Phillips, COO for HSF Affiliates. “”At the same time, respondents’ views of residential real estate have grown increasingly favorable. We believe more consumers will enter the market this year to capitalize on mortgage and pricing opportunities and to secure their part of the American dream.”” Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Confidence Demand Home Prices Home Sales Investors Lenders & Servicers Processing Service Providers 2013-04-09 Tory Barringer Share Prudential Real Estate Reports Greater Confidence Among Buyers, Sellerscenter_img in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing April 9, 2013 396 Views last_img read more

Underwater Loans Down by Half in First Quarter

first_img The number of underwater borrowers dropped by nearly half from Q1 2012 to Q1 2013, “”Lender Processing Services””:http://www.lpsvcs.com/Pages/default.aspx (LPS) reported in its May Mortgage Monitor.According to the monthly report, the number of loans in negative equity was an estimated 7.3 million in the first quarter of 2013, down 47 percent from the approximately 15.5 million underwater loans recorded in the first quarter of last year. [COLUMN_BREAK]As of the end of Q1, the total share of mortgages with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of greater than 100 percent was down to 14.7 percent of all currently active loans.Even in the Western “”sand states,”” where borrowers have struggled in recent years, LPS reported underwater loans were down as much as 53 percent year-over-year.””As we’ve noted before, negative equity appears to still be one of the strongest drivers of new problem loans, and–primarily buoyed by home price increases nationwide–that situation also continues to improve,”” said Herb Blecher, SVP of LPS Applied Analytics.Adding to the good news is LPS’ finding that the percentage of problem loans among borrowers with equity is only 0.5 percent–better than the pre-bubble data.LPS also reported strong origination activity in April, with new loans rising 1.8 percent from March and 34.1 percent from April 2012 to an estimated 835,000. While that data doesn’t reflect the recent volatility in mortgage rates, the company saw another increase in prepayment rates in May, indicating that refinance activity (and associated originations) likely remained healthy. Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Home Equity Home Prices Investors Lender Processing Services Lenders & Servicers Prepayments Service Providers 2013-07-08 Tory Barringer July 8, 2013 462 Views Underwater,Underwater Loans Down by Half in First Quartercenter_img in Data, Origination Sharelast_img read more

HUD Puts Out Qualified Mortgage Definition

first_img in Government, Origination Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies FHA HUD Investors Lenders & Servicers Qualified Mortgage Regulation Service Providers 2013-12-12 Howard Goldthwaite HUD Puts Out Qualified Mortgage Definition December 12, 2013 495 Views center_img “”HUD””:http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD has issued a newly revised “”definition””:http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2013/HUDNo.13-187 of a qualified mortgage (QM) that will affect all Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured loans moving forward. The new rules go into effect on January 10, 2014, and will apply to mortgages that are insured, guaranteed, or administered by HUD.[IMAGE] HUD is legally required to define a QM by the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) criteria set out in the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA), as mandated by the Dodd├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ôFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. HUD’s new rule also builds on the existing QM rule finalized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) earlier this year. HUD’s new rules define two types of legal QMs. Both types have to conform to these rules:* Require periodic payments without risky features.* Have terms not to exceed 30 years.* Limit upfront points and fees to no more than 3 percent with adjustments to facilitate smaller loans (except for Title I, Title II Manufactured Housing, Section 184,Section 184A loans).* Be insured or guaranteed by FHA or HUD.Both types of QMs will have protective features for consumers and different legal consequences for lenders. The main difference between the two is the relation of the loan’s Annual Percentage Rate (APR) to the Average Prime Offer Rate (APOR), the rate for the average borrower receiving a conventional mortgage. The two categories of QMs are:*A Rebuttable Presumption Qualified Mortgage*These will have an APR greater than APOR + 115 basis points (bps) + an ongoing Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) rate. *Safe Harbor Qualified Mortgages*These loans will an APR equal to or less than APOR + 115 bps + ongoing MIP. These mortgages offer lenders the greatest legal certainty that they are complying with the ATR standard. HUD’s ruling also adopted CFPB’s list of transactions that are exempt from the ATR, some of which include reverse mortgages, bridge loans with terms of 12 months or less, and credit extensions from housing finance agencies. Sharelast_img read more

Originators Outline Struggles in Changing Market

first_img Closing Costs Hammerhouse Loan Volume Originators Regulation 2014-04-02 Tory Barringer Originators Outline Struggles in Changing Market April 2, 2014 594 Views in Daily Dose, Featured, Headlines, News, Originationcenter_img In a year that’s seen the implementation of numerous regulations, a recent survey released by recruiting firm Hammerhouse LLC finds more originators are concerned about the overall shape of the market than they are about the regulatory environment.According to results in Hammerhouse’s 4th Annual Survey of Originator Opinions, 44 percent of originators polled said the biggest challenge for the industry in 2014 will be “adding new relationships to support a purchase focused business” with purchase volumes still too weak to support the market.In other expected hurdles, 23 percent said they’re worried about increased competition over a declining business segment, while 21 percent cited concerns about the next phase of regulation being implemented.Despite skyrocketing loan closing costs over 2013’s fourth quarter, the smallest share of respondents—12 percent—said margin compression and loan costs represent the biggest challenge ahead.Given these obstacles and the continuing decline in mortgage volumes, 69 percent of originators expect overall volume to drop in 2014, though more than half still say they expect to exceed their own personal 2013 production numbers (56 percent admitted to not making their goal last year).”This year is where originators and lenders must come to terms with the new realities of the mortgage industry,” said Drew Waterhouse, managing director at Hammerhouse. “The discrepancy in industry versus personal expectations relative to origination volume deserves close monitoring as it could signal a coming reality check.” Sharelast_img read more

Seven Major Metros Reporting New House Price Peaks

first_imgSeven Major Metros Reporting New House Price Peaks in Daily Dose, Data, Featured, Headlines, News May 27, 2014 477 Views Black Knight Financial Services Home Prices 2014-05-27 Colin Robinscenter_img Share Black Knight’s Data and Analytics division released its latest Home Price Index (HPI), based on March 2014 residential real estate transactions. The group found that home prices rose 1.0 percent for the month, reflecting a yearly increase of 7.0 percent.The company combines its extensive property and loan-level databases to create a repeat sales analysis of home prices every month for more than 18,500 U.S. ZIP codes. Black Knight’s HPI represents the price of non-distressed sales by accounting for price discounts from REO and short sales.The average home price in March was $235,000, up 7 percent from the previous year’s HPI of $220,000. Since the beginning of the year, home prices have increased by 1.5 percent from $231,000.Home prices in March were 12.8 percent off of the home price peak of $269,000 seen in 2006.Statewide, Michigan and Washington, D.C., led monthly gains, each showing positive increases of 1.6 percent. Washington (1.5 percent), Oregon (1.5 percent), and Illinois (1.5 percent) rounded out the top five for states with the largest increase in home prices.The bottom five states had only one state with a decrease, Connecticut, which fell 0.1 percent for the month. Rhode Island (0.1 percent), Vermont (0.2 percent), New Hampshire (0.3 percent), and Arkansas (0.4 percent) rounded out the bottom five in price gains.By metro, cities with the largest increase in HPI include San Jose, California (2.2 percent); San Francisco, California (2.0 percent); Detroit, Michigan (1.8 percent); Seattle, Washington (1.8 percent); and Grand Rapids, Michigan (1.7 percent).The company noted that seven of the 40 largest metro areas hit new peaks in March, suggesting that perhaps a sluggish first quarter is on its way to rebounding in time for summer.last_img read more

Economy Faces Weak Q1 but Expected to Improve

first_img Share Economy Faces Weak Q1 but Expected to Improve Economic and Mortgage Finance Commentary Economic Growth Mortgage Bankers Association 2015-05-25 Staff Writer May 25, 2015 446 Views center_img According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Economic and Mortgage Finance commentary for May 2015 written by Joel Kan, associate VP, industry survey and forecasts at MBA, economic growth struggled its way through the first quarter.Kan believes that Q1 was mostly impacted by the stronger US dollar, lower exports, as well as trade and inventory disruptions on the West Coast. On the other hand, low retail sales signified that consumers were not spending much in Q1, and a decline in industrial production could be a sign that businesses are not motivated to increase production and invest.“We still believe that some of these are temporary factors and that domestic growth will pick up in the second quarter, given that the job market remains strong and there has been upward pressure on wage growth,” Kan said. “Because rates have been low for most of 2015 until recently, we revised our refinance originations estimate upward for both the first and second quarters due to higher than expected MBS issuance data and strong refinance applications in the months of February, March, and April.”In his commentary, Kan mentions that refinances are expected to be $551 billion in 2015, compared to a previously estimated $510 billion. MBA now estimates a total of $1.28 trillion in mortgage originations for 2015, compared to $1.12 trillion in 2014. Purchase originations are expected to increase to $730 billion in 2015 from $638 billion in 2014.“The BEA’s advance estimate of first quarter growth was a paltry 0.2 percent, the slowest quarter of growth since the first quarter of 2014,” Kan said. “We and others are becoming increasingly skeptical that the government’s seasonal adjustment process is fully capturing typical first quarter weakness.  This is another reason we are less worried by slower reported growth in Q1.”Although interest rates have been low mostly placing concern on economic growth, the MBA expects rates to increase through the course of the 2015 and the Fed will raise rates in September as the economy and job market grow stronger.“A strong job market leading to sustained wage growth is a factor that drives household formation and that is expected to pick up this year, providing a lift for housing,” Kan said. “We now look to the purchase market to drive the overall housing outlook. Rental vacancies remain low and rents continue to increase, and with home prices still increasing, it is likely that more buyers and sellers will return to the market in the short term.”“However, a differentiated purchase market remains, as higher loan size tiers are growing more rapidly than the lower loan tiers, a sign that entry level and first time buyers still face hurdles,” Kan said. “Even though lower rates have brought additional refinance borrowers into the market and caused us to raise our originations estimates for 2015, refinance activity has been extremely low in recent weeks, as mortgage rates hovered around the 4 percent level.” in Daily Dose, Data, Featured, Newslast_img read more

A Big Win for BOA in Hustle Case

first_imgThe U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a $1.27 billion penalty imposed on Bank of America over the alleged misrepresentation of mortgage-backed securities sold by Countrywide Financial Corp. to the GSEs through a program known as the High Speed Swim Lane (HSSL, commonly known as “Hustle”).The appellate court overturned the verdict because the proof was insufficient under federal fraud statutes to hold the bank liable in connection with Countrywide’s Hustle program.The court’s ruling stated that the government “needed to show false or misleading statements made with fraudulent intent,” but instead, “Critically, the government presented no proof at trial that any quality guarantee was made with fraudulent intent at the time of contract execution. Nor did it offer evidence of any other representations, suggestions, or promises—separate from and post-dating execution of the initial contracts—that were made with fraudulent intent to induce the GSEs to purchase loans.”Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson said of the reversal of the penalty, “We are pleased with the appellate court’s decision.” A spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought the case to trial, said he had no immediate comment when contacted by MReport.The U.S. Department of Justice sued Bank of America in August 2013 over Hustle, alleging that the program emphasized speed over quality of the loans sold, and staff members were rewarded according to sales volume. The government’s lawsuit against Bank of America was a whistleblower suit originated from former Countrywide executive Edward O’Donnell, who reportedly collected $57 million for filing the whistleblower suit.In October 2013, a jury found Countrywide liable for selling toxic MBS to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the Hustle program. Bank of America was ordered to pay a $1.27 billion civil penalty by Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in July 2014 as a result of the bank’s alleged role in selling toxic mortgage-backed securities to the GSEs.Since Rakoff issued the penalty, Bank of America has fought to have the verdict and the penalty dismissed, claiming not only that the Hustle program ended prior the bank’s 2008 acquisition of Countrywide, but that the government’s accusations in the case amount only to breach of contract and not fraud.In February 2015, Rakoff denied the bank’s request to overturn the verdict and the request for a new trial. In April 2015, Bank of America asked the court to either reverse the judgment in the Hustle case or vacate the judgment and remand the case, claiming that Rakoff made partial public statements while the case was still pending and also that “the trial itself was riddled with errors at both the liability and penalty phases.”A $1 million fine against former Countrywide executive Rebecca Mairone—so far the only individual penalized by the government for an alleged role in the financial crisis—was also overturned along with the $1.27 billion penalty against the bank.“I think it was a fair decision, and it was a long time coming,” Mairone told MReport. “I’m relieved to finally be vindicated from the whole fraud issue. I couldn’t be happier. It took a long time to get to this point, but you have to keep fighting for the right thing.”Click here to read the court’s complete ruling. in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, News Bank of America Hustle Case Penalty U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals 2016-05-23 Seth Welborn Sharecenter_img May 23, 2016 608 Views A Big Win for BOA in “Hustle” Caselast_img read more

The Rise of VABacked Originations

first_img October 24, 2016 576 Views FHA-Backed Loans VA-Backed Loans 2016-10-24 Seth Welborn in Daily Dose, News, Origination The Rise of VA-Backed Originationscenter_img Share Ginnie Mae’s share of agency mortgage-backed securities has risen from 25 percent in 2013 up to 32 percent as of September 2016, surpassing Freddie Mac’s share of MBS issuance back in June.The main drivers of Ginnie Mae’s rising share of MBS issuance were FHA refinance activity, the reduction in FHA’s insurance premium (by 50 basis points in January 2015) and increased volumes of VA-backed originations, according to the Urban Institute’s Monthly Chartbook for October 2016, released Monday.In fact, the share of VA-backed mortgage originations has risen sharply in recent years while the FHA’s share has declined during the same period. In 2009, the year after the crisis hit, the VA’s share of agency-backed loans was just 17 percent (approximately $75 billion out of $450 billion) while FHA-insured mortgages comprised $360 billion out of the remaining $375 billion (about 80 percent of the total share). USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) loans comprised the remaining $15 billion.By 2015, six years later, the gap between the VA share and FHA share had closed significantly, however.  Whereas FHA-insured loans dominated the government’s channel of mortgage loans in 2009, that share had shrunk to 57 percent by 2015 to slightly more than $260 billion. Meanwhile, VA’s share had more than doubled from 17 percent to 39 percent (approximately $155 billion) by 2015, according to the Urban Institute.The trend of rising VA share and falling FHA share has two important implications for the mortgage market, Urban Institute reported. The first is, VA mortgages tend to refinance at much faster rates than FHA mortgages (due to better credit characteristics from borrowers such as higher FICO scores and lower DTI ratios), which causes Ginnie Mae MBS to prepay sooner. The VA refinance program does not require appraisal, underwriting, or out of pocket expenses; VA borrowers also tend to have higher loan balances than FHA loans and stand to save more money by refinancing.“Not surprisingly, for most of 2016, the share of total VA originations that was refinances ranged from roughly 50 to 60 percent, while the corresponding share for FHA mortgages remained in the 30 to 35 percent range,” Urban Institute reported. “Faster prepayments ultimately cause Ginnie Mae securities to appreciate less as rates decline, leaving MBS investors with a lower return than they would have otherwise received.”The second important implication for the market, according to Urban Institute, is that the trend underscores the need to more strictly regulate non-bank lenders. The VA covers only 25 percent of the loan amount and the lender remains on the hook for the remaining 75 percent should the loan default, unlike the FHA, which insures 100 percent of its mortgage loans.“This risk has increased in recent years due to the growing role of nonbank lenders in mortgage origination/servicing and the relatively thin regulation they operate under,” Urban Institute said. “And as the VA plays an even bigger role in the mortgage market in the coming years, its risk exposure to nonbank lenders will only increase further.”last_img read more

In addition the potential threat of an increased

first_imgIn addition, the potential threat of an increased duty by India – which last season became Washington’s third-biggest apple market – has “slowed interest” in general this season, he said. The tariff increase implementation date has been postponed several times and is now due to come into effect at the end of January.However, Fryhover said there have been positive signs from the market over the last month.”Over the last 30 days, Washington has seen increased interest coming from India with expectations for consistent purchases throughout the spring and summer months,” he said.”Red Delicious remains the number-one imported variety, but variety expansion promotional support continues.”Meanwhile, China’s tariff increase on U.S. apples combined with a huge reduction in domestic production means there has been lost opportunity for U.S. exporters.”Overall, the Washington apple industry supports a return to normal trade relationships, but has concerns about brand erosion as new apple origins ‘backfill’ Washington’s pullback from several international markets due to tariff issues,” he said.”The WAC’s promotional activities remain funded at 100% to support international consumers, trade and importers in the continued expansion of Washington apple exports.”Correction Jan. 23: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mexico had implemented a tariff of 25% on U.S. apples when in fact it is 20%. Argentine apple campaign off to a positive start … Argentine fruit industry welcomes export tax reduc … You might also be interested in The Washington Apple Commission (WAC) says that domestic market movement has been great over January, providing a lift to growers in a season that has also seen much lower year-on-year volumes and ongoing trade issues.Production in the U.S.’s leading apple-growing state was down by 14% 117.8 million cartons, down from 133 million. This includes 16.6 million cartons of organic apples – the largest in the state’s history.”Over the last two weeks sales movement has been excellent specifically in the U.S. domestic market. Shipment numbers are in line with expectations, providing optimism for the transition into spring,” said the association’s president Todd Fryhover.”Exports are down, but with trade concerns and a large EU crop, this is expected.”Tracking against 2015-16 as a comparable season in total volume, inventory levels are slightly up nearing 5 million cartons, he said, but added that the industry is expecting good domestic demand to continue.The U.S. apple industry has faced numerous trade issues this season – most notably with Mexico, India and China – with exports “dramatically” lower than past seasons. This year around 27% of the crop has been sent abroad, while in the past the figure has been as high as 34%.Mexico remains Washington state’s leading export market, but a 20% tariff rate implemented last year has significantly impacted trade, with shipments down by 23%. Despite the current challenges, Fryhover emphasized the market has “tremendous varietal diversification” and remains an “important and strategic partner” for Washington apples.center_img January 23 , 2019 U.S.: Late season Ruby Frost apple variety gives r … Pink Lady apples “maintained good performance” in …last_img read more