The home equity industry acknowledged this year that in some cases, the Emperor really wasn't wearing any clothes. Companies with super-high growth rates fell apart, industry leaders took massive writedowns because of over- optimistic projections, capital dried up, and consolidation consumed some of the best-known names.

But many lenders insist that the worst is now behind them. The trials of the past 12 months have disposed of the weak and left behind stronger, more cautious survivors, they say.

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