How low can they go?
With earnings from three of the four biggest banks in, one metric stands in sharp relief. Mortgage lending just keeps plunging.
In the fourth quarter, mortgage originations at Citi C, +0.31% were down 23% compared to a year ago. At Wells Fargo WFC, -0.08% , they were 28% lower, and at JPMorgan Chase JPM, +0.81% , they were down 30%.
What’s going on? Here’s how JPMorgan CFO Marianne Lake described it in her prepared remarks to analysts Wednesday: “Home Lending revenue was down 8%, driven by lower net production revenue in a low volume highly competitive environment.”
In other words, fewer people want to take out mortgages from us, and those who do aren’t as profitable for us.
Banks spent the early years of the post-financial crisis recovery fleeing the mortgage market. But more recently, it’s felt a little like the mortgage market is fleeing from banks. Mortgage lending is down, mostly because there aren’t enough houses for people to buy to sustain a healthy housing market – although rising rates aren’t helping either. Also thanks to those higher rates, the long refinance boom is over.