The home equity industry hit several potholes in 1998, as equity disappeared and firms cut costs and in some cases closed shop, but observers are cautiously optimistic about 1999.

Sandler O'Neill & Partners is predicting that subprime mortgage originations will grow about 10% in 1999, to $176 billion. The National Home Equity Mortgage Association, the industry's largest trade group, predicts $315 billion of originations next year, up from $292 billion in 1998.

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