A mortgage industry rebound is far from certain, but this year's convulsive events could help determine which lenders profit next year and which ones languish.

The secondary market is now a government show. This year will be widely remembered for the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other, increasingly aggressive interventions by Washington. In addition, the Federal Housing Administration and the Government National Mortgage Association, agencies that just a few years ago seemed in danger of becoming obsolete, have become industry kingmakers: With many borrowers' options limited, the ability to get loans insured by the FHA and securitized through Ginnie has become a valuable competitive advantage for lenders.

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