If mortgage rates do begin to steadily rise - as most of the Street predicts - lenders could look down in credit to maintain origination volume, an effect that could trickle into all tiers of the market, as, for example, prime lenders skim the cream from the nonprime crop.

Such is reminiscent of the subprime lending and investing community's concern a few years back when the GSEs began exploring lower-credit borrowers to maintain volume, although the interest rate phenomena and subsequent unprecedented refinancing boom solved the volume problem ten times over.

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