Banks ease standards as mortgage business slows down

|By:, SA News Editor

Wells Fargo (WFC) has lowered the minimum FICO score for borrowers applying for FHA loans to 600 from 640, and JPMorgan (JPM +0.1%) plans to lower LTV standards for both jumbos and conforming mortgages, reports TheStreet.

The moves come as the MBA predicts 1-4 family mortgage originations will fall to $1.16T this year from $1.755T in 2013. An early estimate from Inside Mortgage Finance pegs MBS issuance by the GSEs in January of just $67.8B, off 10% since December and the lowest amount since January 2009.

"The wall has begun to come down," writes FBR's Paul Miller of the Wells Fargo news. Miller has been calling for easier standards to combat slowing activity, and if Wells is now approving FHA product to riskier borrowers, other large originators are likely to follow suit. In this case, his own estimate of $1.3T in mortgage originations this year could prove conservative, and bank earnings surprises going forward might be on the upside.

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