Economy Briefs: Foreclosure starts down on annual basis in October

LOS ANGELES — U.S. homes are entering the foreclosure process at a slower pace than a year ago, and fewer properties are being repossessed by lenders, new data show.

From January through October, 971,533 homes were placed on the path to foreclosure, down 8 percent from the same period last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Bernanke: Tight standards on loans hurting economy

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Thursday that overly tight lending standards by banks may be holding back the U.S. economy by preventing creditworthy borrowers from buying homes.

Some tightening of credit standards was needed after the 2008 financial crisis, but “the pendulum has swung too far the other way,” Mr. Bernanke said. Qualified borrowers are being prevented from getting home loans, he said.

MORTGAGE

Rate on 30-year loan hits record low 3.34%

The average interest on fixed-rate mortgages fell to fresh record lows this week, a trend that has helped the housing market start to recover.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says that the average rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.34 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1971. That’s down from 3.40 percent last week and the previous record low of 3.36 percent reached last month.

WEST VIRGINIA

Patriot Coal to stop mountaintop removal mining

MORGANTOWN — Bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp. agreed Thursday to become the first U.S. coal operator to phase out and eventually stop all large-scale mountaintop removal mining in central Appalachia under an agreement reached with three environmental groups that sued over pollution from several West Virginia operations.

St. Louis-based Patriot said the agreement allows it to postpone as much as $27 million in expenses into 2014 and beyond, improving its liquidity and the likelihood it can successfully emerge from Chapter 11 protection as a viable business.

COURTS

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