Tighter underwriting standards on subprime loans could have a greater impact on reducing foreclosures than banning prepayment penalties and balloon loans and other so-called predatory lending practices, according to a study by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.OCC researchers discovered a strong correlation between high foreclosures and refinanced loans with no- and low-document features, which they equated with "loose" lending practices. The study of foreclosures in Chicago did not find the same correlation on subprime loans with balloons or prepayment penalties (36 months or longer) or on no- or low-doc purchase loans. The OCC researchers maintain that underwriting practices that ensure borrowers can repay their loan represent a more effective approach to preventing foreclosures than "blanket" prohibitions on certain lending practices. This approach is also consistent with the proposed guidance on interest-only and payment-option mortgages, according to the study. Federal banking regulators are expected to finalize the guidance this fall.

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