Foreclosures increased in February across all regions despite temporary halts by major banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to the latest U.S. Foreclosure Index released by

The company, based in Sacramento, Calif., said the increase was seen primarily in the second half of the month. Completed foreclosures in February reached the highest monthly total since the foreclosure crisis began, soaring by more than 67% over January's reduced foreclosures.

In February, 121,756 new foreclosures were completed, up from 72,694 in January, which had seen a 26% drop from December's 97,841 foreclosures.

The index found the number of pre-foreclosure filings also increased, hitting 207,703 in February, up more than 24% from 166,860 in January. Alexis McGee, president of, said many homeowners are in trouble and rising unemployment continues to intensify the problem.

"Nearly all the bank moratoria have since expired or are about to expire," she said. "Annualizing the first two months of this year, if foreclosures were to continue unabated, we could end up with another 1.2 million homes back in lenders' hands by year-end."

Regionally, the index of real estate owned showed completed foreclosures in the Southwest for February were up more that 63% from January. In the Midwest, REO went up nearly 90%; in the Southeast, REO increased more than 46%; in the Northeast, REO grew by 138%. REO in Alaska and Hawaii went up nearly 68% from January, and up 28.6% from September 2008.

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