Monday Banking News Roundup

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Welcome to BankingMyWay’s Monday cup of joe. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a hot mug of java and check out the latest news impacting your cash and credit in the banking world this week.

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The Mortgage Bankers Association is out with new numbers indicating that, across the board, housing sales and starts are headed for a “huge” decrease. The MBA blames most of that potential decline on the bleak U.S. unemployment number. The Labor Department’s most recent employment report says that growth in private payroll employment was about 58,000 in May and June. But in March and April, private company job growth was up to 200,000. The MBA estimates that overall U.S. gross domestic product growth will clock in at 2.5% - down from 3% in the second quarter of 2010.

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American Express (Stock Quote: AXP) reports good news on the consumer savings front. According to Amex, 75% of Americans contacted in a new survey say their debt “has not increased” in the first half of 2010. Another 38% say their debt “has actually decreased.” The bad news is that 51% of survey respondents say they are behind on their savings goals for 2010.

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Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) is reporting $35.7 billion in nonperforming loans in the second quarter of 2010. With so many toxic loans on its books, the bank has changed its strategy somewhat on foreclosures. According to REOInsider.com, the bank will now emphasize short sales over foreclosures, also called REOs. Matt Vernon, chief of short sales and REOs at Bank of America, said in a recent panel appearance at REO Expo “We’re going to do everything possible to liquidate property prior to foreclosure. REO will still be available, but we will do everything we can to do short sales.” Vernon added that the bank expects to add 1,000 new staffers to its short sales division.

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Dr. Doom — better known as Nouriel Roubini — is once again bearish on the U.S. economy. His latest column, called Double-Dip Days said that the U.S. economy is headed straight toward another downturn, at worst, with the best possible outcome being “anemic growth.” Writes Roubini: “The global economy, artificially boosted since the recession of 2008-2009 by massive monetary and fiscal stimulus and financial bailouts, is headed towards a sharp slowdown this year as the effect of these measures wanes. Worse yet, the fundamental excesses that fueled the crisis — too much debt and leverage in the private sector (households, banks and other financial institutions, and even much of the corporate sector) — have not been addressed. ... Fasten your seat belts for a very bumpy ride.”

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Reward programs may not be worth as much as consumers think — even as banks, credit card companies and travel industry firms keep piling them up. So says Ithaca College consumer psychologist Michael McCall, lead author of a recent hospitality paper, Building Customer Loyalty: Ten Guiding Principles for Designing an Effective Customer Reward Program. McCall says there is no link between reward programs and customer loyalty. “The hospitality industry has offered reward programs for almost 30 years,” he explains. “Yet there is still a lack of evidence that demonstrates a direct relationship between the program member and their loyalty.” Read the entire report here.

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