Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 4.19 percent

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2017 @ 10:18 AM
Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2017 @ 10:17 AM

            This Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, photo shows a house for sale, in Miami. On Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, Freddie Mac reports on the week’s average U.S. mortgage rates. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Long-term US mortgage rates rose this week after three weeks of declines, marking their first increase of the year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans climbed to an average 4.19 percent from 4.09 percent last week. That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971. A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.79 percent.

The average for a 15-year mortgage increased to 3.40 percent from 3.34 percent last week.

Mortgage rates surged in the weeks since the election of Donald Trump in early November. Investors in Treasury bonds bid yield rates higher because they believe the president-elect's plans for tax cuts and higher spending on roads, bridges and airports will drive up economic growth and inflation.

That would depress prices of long-term Treasury bonds because inflation would erode their value over time, a prospect that caused investors to demand higher yields.

In the latest week, the price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond dropped, pushing up its yield.

Bond yields move opposite to prices and influence long-term mortgage rates. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.52 percent Wednesday from 2.42 percent a week earlier. The yield continued its steady march higher since Election Day Nov. 8, when it stood at 1.87 percent. It held steady at 2.52 percent Thursday morning.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage fell this week to 0.4 point from 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year loans also slipped to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans eased to 3.20 percent from 3.21 percent. The fee was unchanged at 0.4 point.

Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem dive into Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 5:50 PM

Actors, from left, Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem and Orlando Bloom attend the European premiere of Disney's ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.’  Depp and Bardem have both signed on to play monsters in Universal’s new ‘Dark Universe’ film series, a reboot of sorts of classic monster movies.
Kristy Sparow/Getty Images for Disney

Universal Pictures has signed on more A-listers to star in its new monster franchise, the studio announced on Monday.

It also announced the name of the new franchise, “Dark Universe,” which includes a series of film reboots with classic horror movie monsters and characters. 

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“Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters. #DarkUniverse,” the movie studio said on Twitter.

Award-winning actors Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem are the latest superstars to hop on the franchise. Depp has signed on to play the Invisible Man plan, and Bardem will play Frankenstein’s Monster in a remake of the “Bride of Frankenstein,” according to the press release.

The first film in the series, “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis and Russell Crowe, among others, opens in June.

“We take enormous pride in the creativity and passion that has inspired the reimagining of Universal’s iconic monsters and promise audiences we will expand this series strategically,” Universal Pictures Chairwoman Donna Langley said.

The “Dark Universe” films are all connected by a “mysterious, multi-national organization, known as Prodigium,” the studio revealed. The group’s mission is to “track, study, and – when necessary – destroy evil” in the world, and that includes monsters, and protect the public.


Conspiracy-theory website InfoWars gets White House press pass

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 5:18 PM

Alex Jones arrives for a child custody hearing at the Travis County, Texas, Courthouse in March 2017.
Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman

The website owned by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, InfoWars, received a press credential to cover the White House, its man in Washington tweeted Monday.

The pass was apparently a temporary, one-day pass but that did little to tamp down the outrage.

It’s the latest entrée into the mainstream for Jones, a man who turned a show on an Austin, Texas, public access channel into a conspiracy theory-pumping media empire, funded by hawking survivalists products — and who has come under increasing scrutiny as his fame has grown. 

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Jones shot to national prominence after declaring the 2012 shooting deaths of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a government hoax designed to take away gun rights. Connecticut’s U.S. senator, Chris Murphy, took to Twitter to blast InfoWars getting the press credential. 

Beyond the Sandy Hook conspiracy, Jones recently retracted two conspiracy theories he peddled under threat of legal action: One claimed that the basement of a local Washington, D.C., pizza joint served as the nerve-center of a child abuse ring allegedly linked to Hillary Clinton. (For starters, the building has no basement.) The other claimed that Idaho yogurt company Chobani was caught “importing migrant rapists.”

Those retractions came as Jones fought to retain sole custody of his children in a Travis County family court, where his attorneys argued that his show persona was just an act. (Jones’ ex-wife would go on to win joint custody.)

Meanwhile, Jones’ man in Washington, Jerome Corsi has a long and controversial track record as well. In 2011, he authored “Where’s The Birth Certificate?" which was published three weeks after President Barack Obama released his birth certificate to combat the conspiracy theory he was not born in the United States.

That theory was promoted by Jones and made famous by now-President Donald Trump.

Years earlier, in 2004, Corsi was a central figure in the “Swift Boat” attacks on then-Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts that included co-authoring a book questioning Kerry’s war record.

Infowars' Alex Jones apologizes for spreading fake 'Pizzagate' story

Published: Sunday, March 26, 2017 @ 2:23 AM

In this Dec. 5, 2016, file photo, the front door of Comet Ping Pong pizza shop in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria for spreading the fake story last year that linked the restaurant to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and human trafficking.

Jones, as the Austin, Texas-based host of Infowars.com, has a long history of pushing wild and false conspiracy theories, such as claiming that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax.

But in a rare backtracking mea culpa, Jones apologized for his role in promoting the baseless “Pizzagate” story that went viral among right-wing bloggers and media sites during the 2016 presidential campaign.

>> Watch the clip here

The gist of the fake story accused Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, of running a child sex abuse ring through the Comet Ping Pong restaurant owned by James Alefantis. Podesta’s comments about the pizzeria — made in Democratic Party emails exposed by WikiLeaks — became fodder for fake news web portals as well as popular user-generated content sites like Reddit and 4chan.

Jones, in a statement he read aloud for his online audience, tried to put some distance between himself and the fake story and blamed “scores of media outlets,” “third-party accounts of alleged activities” and “accounts of (Infowars) reporters who are no longer with us” for the “incorrect narrative” he discussed several times on his program.

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“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones said.

In language that was clearly sculpted by a legal mind hoping to avoid possible litigation, Jones added: “To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate.”

For many people, the Pizzagate conspiracy theory became part of the mainstream political discussion only in December, after 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of North Carolina reportedly brought a gun into a Comet Ping Pong packed with customers, and pointed it at an employee in hopes of finding proof of “Pizzagate.”

Welch surrendered to police when he found no evidence that children were being harbored there, D.C. police said at the time. He pleaded guilty to weapons and assault charges Friday, CNN reported.

Ivanka Trump reportedly differs with President Trump on Syrian refugees

Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 9:52 PM

Ivanka Trump (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ivanka Trump is reportedly disagreeing with her father on the plight of Syrian refugees, saying in an interview Tuesday that the United States might need to open its borders to refugees. Her statement is an unusual public shift away from her father’s positions.

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According to The New York Times, her comments caused a “scramble” at the White House to figure out a way to deal with the first daughter’s obvious and outspoken shift from President Donald Trump’s agenda, including the two very controversial executive orders banning refugees and travelers from seven, then six nations, both of which were ultimately shut down by federal judges.

“I think there is a global humanitarian crisis that’s happening, and we have to come together, and we have to solve it,” Ms. Trump said during the interview with NBC.

“That has to be part of the discussion. But that’s not going to be enough in and of itself,” she replied after being asked whether or not the borders should be open to more Syrian refugees.

>> RELATED: Merriam-Webster defined “complicit” for Ivanka Trump after she said she didn’t know what it meant

Ms. Trump has been seen by many as a moderating voice to President Trump behind closed doors, but she has rarely spoken out publicly against her father’s agenda. Her choice to stay publicly silent as her father implements his controversial agenda has opened her up to criticism from those who saw her as a small glimmer of hope in the White House.

“Saturday Night Live” even created a skit where they showed the first daughter hawking a perfume called “Complicit,” which was an obvious dig at her choice not to speak out against her father.

During an interview on CBS, Gayle King asked Trump if she thought she was complicit, to which she responded, “If being complicit is wanting to, is wanting to be a force of good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit.”

Her comments on Syrian refugees, which may be seen as a positive from President Trump’s critics, were met with ire from the right, including one of the president’s biggest cheerleaders, “InfoWars” host Alex Jones.

Jones wrote in a blog post Thursday that “we did not elect her” and that “Ivanka Trump’s policies are sounding a lot like Hillary Clinton, and we didn’t want Clinton in the White House.”