While thrifts recaptured market share in mortgage originations in 1994, the main reason was a much milder slowdown than was experienced by other lenders. As a group, the 29 thrifts among the 100 largest originators had a decline of 13.6% in fundings, compared with 33.6% for banks and 41.3% for mortgage companies.

For the top 100 originators, volume fell 34%.

In the face of these declines, only a few thrifts actually increased their origination volume for the year, and some used the acquisition route to do it.

World Savings and Loan Association, the thrift unit of Golden West Financial Corp., Oakland, Calif., was one of the few giants to have a pure gain, just 3.3%. Even at the height of the refinancing boom in 1993, World Savings made virtually no fixed-rate loans, so its originations in ARMs- oriented 1994 benefited by comparison.

American Savings Bank, Stockton, Calif., racked up a 22.29% gain without the benefit of acquisitions. Washington Mutual of Seattle, building both through acquisitions and aggressive lending, increased its volume by 145% and jumped to 29th-largest originator, from No. 105 a year earlier.

Perhaps the biggest fully internal growth by a thrift was accomplished by Downey Savings and Loan, Newport Beach, Calif., which increased its originations by 86%. It was apparently being opportunistic, employing a short-term strategy to meet its immediate investment needs.

"Mortgage brokers and correspondent lenders were responsible for the majority of our loan originations in 1994," according to Downey's annual report. "These sources were important in helping us grow our loan portfolio to better use our capital. As we enter 1995, however, portfolio growth will slow and the volume of loans generated from these sources will decline."

With industrywide originations expected to drop again this year, the scramble for share of a shrinking market will certain continue, but the recent shift by consumers back toward fixed-rate loans will make life a bit harder for thrifts.

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