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MBA economists predict mortgage market taper

Press breakfast sees 2014 originations dipping 32%

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It may be sunny in Washington D.C., the site of the Mortgage Bankers Association 100th Annual Convention & Expo, but predictions by the host's economists on mortgage originations turned very gloomy during a group breakfast with the press.

The MBA told journalists over plates of eggs, bacon and sausage that it would revise upwards its predictions for 2013 mortgage originations to $1.7 trillion from $1.6 trillion.

But the good news ended there.

The $1.08 billion in refinances will drop to $463 billion in 2014. The purchase originations will only rise from $661 billion to $723 billion, according to data provided by the MBA.

The MBA believes rates will keep pushing upward, going well above 5%, and remain that way through 2015. This will place downward pressure on refinances, leaving a gap that purchase mortgage originations can't fill.

"The mortgage market is tapering, even if the Federal Reserve is not," said MBA chief economist Jay Brinkman, in reference to the Fed buying large volumes of mortgage-backed securities. "If the Fed continues the pace of $40 billion a month, they will be buying in excess of 50% of every mortgage in the country."

The news comes amid reports that the Federal Reserve would do better holding these mortgages to maturity rather than selling. However, it is widely predicted the Fed will sell early next year, in order to reduce its record balance sheet of nearly $4 trillion.

Michael Fratantoni, vice president of single-family research and policy, said jobs remain a concern, and that not having one is a primary reason Americans aren't buying homes. And, the numbers may not be telling the whole story.

People have effectively stopped looking for work in many cases, it's the "discouraged worker" phenomenon," Fratantoni said. "You won't see a huge re-entry of people into the job market."

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