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Table: How the Mortgage Market Affects Bonds

1 Homeowners take out fixed-rate mortgages that include the option to repay early.

2 Lenders package mortgages into securities and resell them. Mortgage-backed securities are now nearly 40% of the bond market.

3 Financial institutions buy them for the long streams of homeowners' payments. If homeowners refinance, those payment streams dwindle.

4 Interest rates fall, and homeowners refinance.

5 Institutions rush to replenish the stream of payments by buying 10-year Treasury bonds.

6 The Treasury buying pushes up bond prices, simultaneously depressing interest rates.

7 Lower interest rates stimulate more mortgage refinancing, and the cycle continues.

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