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Worse than expected foreclosure increases threaten Obama property stimulus

Foreclosure filings in February jumped nearly 6% from January, despite foreclosure moratoriums and prevention programs around the country, according to a new report.

Foreclosure filings, including default notices, auction sales and bank repossessions, were reported on 290,631 properties in February, up almost 30% from February 2008, figures from RealtyTrac show.

The report also shows that one in every 440 US homes received a foreclosure filing in February. The continued increases could seriously affect government efforts to boost the property sector.

'It's a bit worse than I expected. It shows the foreclosure crisis continues to intensify. It highlights the difficulty the Obama administration is going to have to stem these surging foreclosures,' Mark Zandi of Moody's.

Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors agreed that the figures are higher than expected. 'It's still very high, but perhaps it's not overly surprising. While there are moratoriums that exist, not every property is going to be spared. We should expect to see a steady rise in foreclosures. More people will be facing this as unemployment increases,' he argued.

In Nevada one in every 70 homes received a foreclosure filing in February, a 9% increase. Arizona posted the second highest state foreclosure rate in February with one in every 147 housing units received a foreclosure filing. California, with one in every 165 properties receiving a filing, had the third highest rate.

Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Oregon and Ohio were the other states with the 10 highest foreclosure rates.

Foreclosures may increase once moratoriums run out, warns Rick Sharga of RealtyTrac.

'We could be seeing the first wave of employment-related foreclosure activity. What worries us is that, with all the delinquency tactics, we're still seeing an increase,' he added.

Many economists expect foreclosures to continue as long as unemployment mounts.

'We lost another 651,000 jobs in February, cumulating to a total of 4.2 million since the recession started in December 2007,' said Brian Bethune, an economist with IHS Global Insight. 'This is a steamroller that right now is crushing foreclosure mitigation efforts,' he added.