FICO scores are less significant as an early default indicator when other high-risk loan attributes, such as no income verification, are present, according to a Fitch Ratings report on defaults of subprime mortgages underlying residential mortgage-backed securities.The report says the normal lag between slowing home price appreciation and a rise in mortgage defaults has been shortened in the case of 2006 subprime mortgages by high borrower leverage and the widespread use of stated-income loan programs. "While FICO scores continue to be highly predictive measures of relative risk for loans with similar characteristics, FICO scores play a lesser role when additional risk layers are added," said Glenn Costello, managing director of RMBS at Fitch. "In the case of the 2006 vintage delinquencies, additional risk layers that are factoring into the sharply higher delinquencies include high combined loan-to-value ratios and stated-income loan programs, as borrowers with higher FICO scores tend to be highly levered." The rating agency can be found online at http://www.fitchratings.com.

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