With the U.S. mortgage-backed securities sector on course to turn in one of its weakest performances in a decade, Wall Street pros in that sector are wondering if the drought of new issues could translate into personnel layoffs and bonus reductions.

All but one of the top 10 U.S. MBS underwriters this year has experienced serious contractions in new issuance underwriting volume, including Citigroup Global Markets, Bear Stearns and Morgan Stanley. The exception is Deutsche Bank Securities, which has risen from 14th place at this point last year to its current 10th-ranked position. Some of the sharpest tumbles are by Goldman Sachs, whose underwriting volume has fallen 71% compared with last year, and Lehman Brothers, whose volume is down 35%.

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