There are faint indications that the housing and mortgage markets may be on the mend, although analysts will not be pinned down on calling a bottom to the decline. It’s not hard to understand their reluctance. While housing starts stood at a seasonally adjusted 583,000 annual figure in February—up 22.2 percent from January—the numbers were off 47.3 percent from a year earlier.

And though the Mortgage Bankers Association revised its forecast for 2009 mortgage originations more than $800 billion to $2.78 trillion, it noted that the increase is “due entirely to the expected increase in mortgage refinancing activity” tied to the Federal Reserve’s move to buy Treasury bonds and more mortgage-backed securities and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s refi programs. Still, in a market starved for good news, what promises to be the “fourth highest originations year on record” qualifies as something for the plus side.

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