Once again MBS titan Lehman Brothers took the crown for year-to-date mortgage-backed issuance - with $19.16 billion in proceeds, according to Thomson Financial Securities Data - but even the top underwriter's numbers represent an approximate 46% drop from the $34 billion the shop had underwritten by the end of the third quarter 1999.

"Business is down across the board for everybody, and economic conditions still prevail here - with higher interest rates, the shape of the American consumer changing, the saturation in the commercial mortgage business, and overall consolidation, times are very different for the mortgage markets," said Martin Harding, the head of MBS at Lehman. "Everybody thought the old rules were going to apply in the last couple of years, but in the mortgage market, as in other markets - ever since Long Term Capital - we're going into new territory."

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