Whether rooted in increased market power among surviving lenders, a return to sensible pricing after the excesses of the bubble or strains on capacity now that subprime infrastructure has been sloughed off, profits from originating mortgages appeared to lift off last year.

Mortgage earnings were an early bright spot for banking companies in the first half of last year during a phase that was marked by stress tests on the one hand and a developing refinancing wave on the other.

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