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Refinancing Surge Lifts Banks Amid Foreclosure Scrutiny

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...Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, received $194 billion of loan applications in the third quarter, the second-most in its history, Chief Financial Officer Howard Atkins said last week. About 80 percent were to refinance. Bank of America Corp. CFO Charles Noski said lending margins are up and demand should remain robust through yearend...

...Refinancing applications have more than doubled since the start of the year, hovering for the past 10 weeks near levels not seen since May 2009, according to Mortgage Bankers Association data. Rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans declined to 4.19 percent in the week ended Oct. 14, according to Freddie Mac, the lowest since the McLean, Virginia-based company began tracking the data in 1971.

With fewer competitors in the market, per-loan profit on making and selling mortgages is rising, with the difference widening between average rates on new loans and yields on Fannie Mae-guaranteed bonds into which they can be packaged. The gap is about 1 percentage point, up from about 0.45 percentage point in the past decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg....

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