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Rates head up as title insurance biz booms

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After cutting thousands of employees to stem losses in 2008, title insurers have seen a dramatic increase in business in recent months that's largely driven by homeowners rushing to refinance loans to take advantage of low interest rates. As business picks up, First American Corp. and Fidelity National Financial Inc. -- parent companies of underwriters that insure about three-quarters of all title insurance policies -- have increased or plan to increase rates by up to 20 percent in the states that generate most of their business. Fidelity saw orders for title insurance policies shoot up from 5,000 orders per day in October and November to 14,200 orders a day in January. Part of that increase was the result of Fidelity's acquisition in December of bankrupt LandAmerica Financial Group Inc.'s underwriting subsidiaries, which made Fidelity the nation's biggest title insurance underwriter (see story). Former LandAmerica subsidiaries Commonwealth Land Title and Lawyers Title ac...