Mortgage originations fell by less than 25% last year, to $774 billion, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. The decline was surprisingly mild, considering what many individual companies were reporting each month or quarter.

David Lereah, the trade group's chief economist, said his estimate all along had been for originations of $750 million to $775 million, down from about $1 trillion in 1993.

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