SAN FRANCISCO - At the Mortgage Bankers Association's 91st Annual Convention & Expo, economists forecasted only a modest rise in interest rates despite continued economic expansion. With rates staying at low levels, the purchase market is expected to remain robust in the coming years.

Purchase originations for this year are pegged at $1.48 trillion, dropping to $1.45 trillion next year and $144 trillion in 2006. In contrast, refinance activity is expected to decline significantly from $1.19 trillion in 2004 to only $68 billion and $46 billion in 2005 and 2006, respectively. As a result, the refinance share in mortgage originations is expected to plunge to only 32% in 2005, and even lower to 26% in 2006 versus the 45% seen in 2004.

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