Obama’s Disclosure Shows Mortgage Refinance Not High on Agenda

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 07:27 AM

 

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While President Barack Obama has cited the financial relief available to homeowners by refinancing at low-interest rates, he and his wife weren’t among Americans who sought out a lower-cost loan last year.

The Obamas still held at the end of 2011 a 30-year mortgage on their Chicago residence of between $500,001 and $1 million at a rate of 5.625 percent, according to financial disclosure forms released yesterday by the White House. The loan was obtained in 2005.

Rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage averaged 4.46 percent last year, according to Bankrate.com data, hitting a low at the end of the year of 3.92 percent. In 2011, 4.3 million homeowners refinanced, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Costs have dropped more since then, with the national average rate for a 30-year mortgage hitting 3.75 percent as of May 14, according to Bankrate.com.

With the housing market still a drag on the economy in an election year, Obama has been promoting programs to help homeowners refinance. Speaking May 11 in Nevada, the state with the highest rate of foreclosure filings per household, Obama urged Congress to expand a refinancing program for homeowners who owe more than their properties are worth, calling it “a smart thing to do not only for homeowners but for our economy.”

Total Assets

The disclosure, required under a 1978 federal ethics law, also showed the president and first lady Michelle Obama held total assets of between $2.6 million and $8.3 million last year, with as much as $1 million of it in a JPMorgan Chase & Co. asset management account.

The forms show two JPMorgan checking accounts for the Obamas -- with $500,000 to $1 million in a joint account and another account held by the first lady with a balance between $1,000 and $15,000. Last year the couple reported having between $250,001 and $500,000 in the asset management account.

Obama this week cited JPMorgan’s $2 billion trading loss, disclosed May 10 by Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, as showing the need for greater government oversight of the financial industry.

In an interview May 14 on ABC’s “The View” program, he called JPMorgan “one of the best managed banks there is.” Obama said Dimon is “one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion and counting.”

Treasuries

The disclosures, which cover the period ending Dec. 31, show $1 million to $5 million of the Obamas’ assets are in U.S. Treasury notes, and $600,000 to $1.25 million are in Treasury bills. Treasury notes have maturities of between one and 10 years; Treasury bills have maturities of one year or less.

The first couple also have Section 529 tax-advantaged college savings accounts for both daughters, ages 13 and 10, with balances each between $100,000 and $200,000.

Because the disclosure form provides asset values only in broad ranges, it’s difficult to know whether the Obamas’ net worth has risen or fallen and if so by how much.

The asset with the greatest potential decline in value since 2010 was a joint account holding Treasury bills. It was valued at between $1 million and $5 million in last year’s filing and declined to between $500,000 and $1 million in this year’s disclosure.

Last year, Obama reported assets of between $2.8 million and $11.8 million.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who helped form a private-equity firm in Boston, estimated his wealth to be as much as $250 million on financial disclosure statements.

The vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, reported assets of between $239,000 and $866,000.


To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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