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Mortgage reports shine rays of hope for housing

The rate of delinquent home loans is falling as high-risk mortgages from the housing boom are replaced by loans written to the strict standards enforced after the bust.

A Mortgage Bankers Assn. report Thursday said that after seasonal adjustments 7.58% of all residential mortgages were delinquent by at least one payment as of the fourth quarter of 2011.

That was down from 7.99% in the third quarter of 2011 and 8.25% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The trade group said its quarterly survey covers about 88% of home loans.

The Mortgage Bankers Assn. also said the percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started had fallen noticeably. But experts expect the rate to increase this year following the end of a 16-month state and federal investigation info faulty foreclosure paperwork.

About 4.4% of all U.S. homes remained in foreclosure proceedings — a rate that trade group economist Jay Brinkmann noted was closer to the all-time high of 4.6% at the end of 2010 than to the longer-term average of 1.2%.

A separate study by credit tracker TransUnion this week showed that California, though still plagued with some of the worst housing woes in the United States, is clearing its huge backlog of troubled mortgages faster than the nation as a whole.

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