Hope for a 'decline in the rate of decline'

Commentary: Foreclosure backlog amasses

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The Fed’s outright purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities — bonds guaranteed by government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac — are having the desired effect: Rates are down and staying down.

Even the Fed’s immense power cannot force rates to 4.5 percent or lower (not quickly), but it has removed upside volatility. Mortgage rates should have run back way above 5 percent in a week like this — a big bear-market stock rally and immense refinance demand — and instead held near 4.75 percent.