Washington Mutual Inc. (WaMu), the country’s largest savings and loan, told investors Wednesday that it expects mortgage originations nationwide to fall to $1.5 trillion in 2008 from a projected $2.4 trillion this year as housing prices decline.

The Seattle-based thrift also predicted that nervous investors would continue to demand higher returns on nonconforming mortgages that are ineligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And that would drive up mortgage rates on loans higher than $417,000.

It also expects the Federal Reserve to continue to cut rates to 4 percent by June from 4.5 percent now.

WaMu to Investors: Sales Slowdown to Persist – Reuters, by way of Realtor.org

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