The blizzard wasn't the only cause of the chill that went through the senior executives conference of the Mortgage Bankers Association in New York last week.

Jonathan Gray, a mortgage finance analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., New York, told those assembled of his concern that loan delinquencies would increase dramatically in the next few years.

Mr. Gray said the increase in affordable-housing loans would increase delinquencies. And most of the servicing rights currently held by lenders are on loans originated during the refinancing boom of 1992 and 1993. Delinquencies tend to peak when loans are three to four years old, and these loans are approaching that age.

Larry Swedroe, a managing director at Residential Services Corporation of America, said Mr. Gray's reasoning is sound, but there is not much that lenders can do about the problem. Prudential Home Mortgage tightened its underwriting standards as a safeguard against an increase in delinquencies, he said.

"In 1994 and 1995, lenders stretched credit standards because volume was way down," Mr. Swedroe said. "We didn't do that." The same phenomenon occurred from 1979 to 1982, when rates were very high, Mr. Swedroe said, and the industry suffered a spate of delinquencies as a result.

Prudential built a credit scoring model in the late 1980s to guard against arbitrary reduction of credit standards, he said.

Prudential also avoided high delinquencies by shunning loans that required little documentation. Such loans became popular in that period as a way to approve borrowers who might not otherwise qualify for a mortgage.

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