Hope Now servicers modified 45,000 subprime loans in January, up 16% from December's level, and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he expects the numbers to increase now that all the servicers have adopted the American Securitization Forum's protocol for fast-tracking subprime borrowers into loan modifications and refinancings. "I am pleased to announce that as of today, all of the Hope Now members that service subprime mortgages have the protocol in place, ahead of the rising volume of resets in the coming months," Secretary Paulson told the National Association of Business Economists. The Treasury secretary stressed that government-led efforts to prevent foreclosures should be focused on borrowers struggling to make their payments or facing a reset they cannot afford. And he threw cold water on a proposal to restructure "underwater" mortgages so the borrowers have an incentive to stay in their homes. "Any homeowner who can afford their mortgage payments but chooses to walk away from the underwater property is simply a speculator -- and one who is not honoring his obligation," Mr. Paulson said.

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