On Thursday, gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) futures for February delivery increased $8.10 to settle at $1,647.70 per ounce, while silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) futures gained 23 cents to settle at $30.12.

Foreclosure filings and repossessions fell 33 percent in the U.S. last year to 2.7 million, their lowest level since 2007.  According to RealtyTrac, one in every 69 homes in the U.S. had at least one foreclosure filing during the year, while 804,000 homes were repossessed — a significant improvement from the peak reached in 2010 when 1.04 million homes were repossessed.

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In the past five years, more than 4 million homes have been lost to foreclosure, but while last year’s declines would seem to signal good news for the housing market, much of it is due to processing delays caused by fallout from the robo-signing scandal that broke in late 2010.  Lenders became more cautious in the wake of the robo-signing scandal, taking their time to make sure paperwork was legal and proper, thus creating a backlog in the foreclosure pipeline. As a result, the average time it took to process a foreclosure climbed to 348 days in the fourth quarter, up from 305 days a year earlier.

In afternoon trading, the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEARCA:GLD) gained .30 percent, while the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEARCA:SLV) edged .24 percent higher.  Gold miners (NYSEARCA:GDX) such as Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) gained 1 percent, while Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) remained flat.  Silver miners (NYSEARCA:SIL) such as Silvercorp Metals (NYSE:SVM) and First Majestic (NYSE:AG) both gained .80 percent and .25 percent, respectively.

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After falling more than 20 percent yesterday, due to being ordered to close a shaft at its Lucky Friday mine, shares of Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) gained 3 percent on Thursday.  Another large mover was Jaguar Mining Inc. (NYSE:JAG), as shares gained 4.6 percent.  The company said it has completed confidentiality agreements with interested parties for a potential merger.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Eric McWhinnie at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com