With earnings from three of the four biggest banks in, one metric stands in sharp relief. Mortgage lending just keeps plunging. In the fourth quarter, mortgage originations at Citi C, +4.16%   were down 23% compared to a year ago. At Wells Fargo WFC, -1.55%  , they were 28% lower, and at JPMorgan Chase JPM, +0.73%  , they were down 30%.


What's going on? Here's how JPMorgan CFO Marianne Lake described it in her prepared remarks to analysts Wednesday: "Home Lending revenue was down 8%, driven by lower net reduction revenue in a low volume highly competitive environment."


Mortgage lending is down, mostly because there aren't enough houses for people to buy to sustain a healthy housing market -- although rising rates aren't helping either. Also thanks to those higher rates, the long refinance boom is over

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