The housing crisis, which led to huge drop in personal wealth for many Americans, may be over at long last. "I think that it's really in the rear-view mirror," says Daren Blomquist of the real estate and foreclosure listings firm RealtyTrac.
The foreclosure crisis, perhaps the biggest scar on the housing market, is rapidly going away. New numbers on filings, including default notices, auctions and bank repossessions show a sharp retreat across the country.
"Nationally we're seeing an acceleration in the decreases in foreclosure activity," says Blomquist. "There was a 15 percent drop just month-to-month from October to November in overall foreclosure activity and that was the biggest monthly drop we've seen in three years."
The seizure of millions of properties was perhaps the most painful part of the housing collapse. The collapse of property values left many more people underwater with mortgages higher than the value of their houses and apartments.
The number of homes entering the foreclosure process has fallen by two-thirds since the height of the housing crisis in 2010. The numbers are coming down very quickly and even accelerating back toward a more normal level of foreclosure activity.
America's biggest bank, JP Morgan Chase, will pay as much as $2 billion in fines and penalties to federal authorities, settling claims that it failed to warn investors about Bernard Madoff's activities. The government will use a large share of the money to compensate victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
Sources told the New York Times that a settlement with Justice Department prosecutors "would include a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement and more than $1 billion in penalties to resolve the criminal case." Other fines would be imposed by federal regulators who've been looking into flaws in JP Morgan's money-laundering safeguards. The expected deal comes five years after Madoff was arrested.
The stock market begins a new day after suffering its biggest loss in five weeks yesterday. The S&P 500 index fell 20 points, or 1.2 percent - the index's biggest decline since Nov. 7. The Dow Jones Industrial average dropped 130 points. Futures fell slightly this morning. Overseas markets in Europe and Asia are mostly lower.
Exxon Mobil says the drive for higher living standards around the world will keep demand for electricity and transportation fuels growing even as economies get more efficient and governments put a price on pollution. The company's annual long-term energy outlook predicts world energy demand will grow 35 percent by 2040.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow