While New England's economic growth has tended to lag behind the nation's, the area's job data, population growth, and mortgage activity indicate it is not doing badly, according to Nicholas Perna, chief economist of Perna Associates and economic adviser to Webster Financial Corp."There might not be as many mortgages being written here as in Nevada, but the size of the loans in the area are a heck of a lot better," Mr. Perna said at the closing session of the 17th Annual New England Mortgage Banking Conference in Providence, R.I. "Based on job data, Connecticut rebounded, [and] Massachusetts was going through the roof but fell apart. Now, in Boston, mortgages have extended at a moderate rate, even though job growth has flattened out. We're still in much better shape than the banking system of years ago." With so many programs available, there is a way to get everyone into a home these days, but in a rising rate environment borrowers might not fully understand the risk they are taking by getting loans with variable-rate features, Mr. Perna said. "They have more risk than they might really know," he said. "No one benefits if people who qualify for loans can't pay them."

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