H&R Block's RACs selling briskly: H&R Block's update on its early season returns reported that it sold 4.6 million refund anticipation checks to its retail consumers during the first half of the tax season. Block had about 8 million retail returns through February 15th, so a back-of-the-envelope
calculation says that 57 percent of its clients used a RAC.
Food Stamp Use Increases: The USDA reported that an additional 5.4 million American households enrolled in the food stamp program ("Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program") in the last year. In all, there are now more than 43 million recipients, representing one in seven American households. The average household receives $285.64 each month to help with groceries. One troubling observation: average household benefit has dropped steadily since April 2009.
If you go to google trends, you can see further evidence of that uptick. Searches for "food stamps" were flat for most of the last decade, but have since been steadily increasing since 2008. Cities where that search is most popular: New Orleans, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, and Portland.
Reverse Mortgages: The reverse mortgage market is undergoing a period of rapid concentration. In just the last year, the top ten lenders in the field have seen their share of all HECM's go from 44.7 percent to 64.7 percent. Bank of America is leaving the market, which should decelerate or turn that dynamic around.