WASHINGTON -- Industry observers took heart from the report by the Mortgage Bankers Association that loan delinquencies were flat during the first quarter. They took the numbers as a sign that consumers and lenders could have clear sailing well into next year.

The national MBA survey found that with homeowners reaping the fruits of lower monthly payments and better incomes, late payments on home loans were little changed in the first quarter from the previous quarter's 20-year low.

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