Bank of America giving mortgage aid to 200,000

NEW YORK- Bank of America is providing mortgage relief to about 200,000 homeowners.

Homeowners that qualify are those whose home values have fallen below what they owe on their mortgages. Bank of America will reduce the amount owed by the homeowners by as much as $100,000 in some cases. Only mortgages that are currently owned by Bank of America will qualify. Those that are owned by government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or backed by the Federal Housing Administration will not be eligible.

The move will help the bank reduce the amount of penalties it owes to the government’s Housing & Urban Development agency by $850 million.

The penalties were part of a broader $25 billion settlement announced Feb. 9 by federal and state attorneys general and the largest mortgage lenders in the country to resolve investigations into abusive home lending and fraudulent foreclosure practices.

About 11 million American households are “underwater” on their mortgages, meaning they owe more than their homes are worth.

Rebound from triple-digit drop hints recovery goes on

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks rose for a third session Friday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq tallying a fourth week of gains, after another strong monthly jobs report illustrated the recovery continues.

“It’s very positive that we’ve had three up days in a row after our first triple-digit selloff (this year) on Tuesday. It takes the threat that (Tuesday) was the beginning of a correction phase off the table, perhaps,” said Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Investments.

“The economy, while still growing at a below-average rate, is still improving,” said Smith of February’s jobs data. “The revisions up the prior two months were a very important part of this jobs report,” he added.

Off 0.4 percent from last Friday’s close, its second weekly drop, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.08 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,922.02.

Oil, cars, computers push U.S. imports to record high

WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit surged in January to the widest imbalance in more than three years after imports grew faster than exports.

Rising oil prices helped drive imports to a record high, as did stronger demand for foreign-made cars, computers and food products. And exports to Europe fell, a sign that the region’s debt crisis could temporarily weaken U.S. growth just as the job market is strengthening.

— From news service reports