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Bank of America said to cut 2,100 jobs as rate hikes take toll on home loans

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. lender, will eliminate about 2,100 jobs and shutter 16 mortgage offices as rising interest rates weaken loan demand, said two people with direct knowledge of the plans.

Mortgage lenders are paring staff as higher interest rates discourage refinancing and cast doubt on how long the housing market rebound will last.

Wells Fargo, the biggest U.S. home lender, plans more than 2,300 job cuts, and JPMorgan Chase may dismiss 15,000.

Bank of America’s pending home loans fell 5 percent at the end of June from the previous quarter.

About 1,500 of the Bank of America workers who will lose their jobs helped process home loans, said one of the two sources, who asked for anonymity because the scope of the plans hadn’t been publicly announced even though employees were notified Aug. 29.

About 400 worked in a suburban Cleveland call center, and 200 dealt with overdue mortgages, the person said. The reductions are to be completed by Oct. 31, the people said.

The changes “reflect our ongoing efforts to streamline our facilities and align our cost structure with market realities,” said Terry Francisco, a spokesman for Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America.

The lender targeted three offices in California as well as locations in Washington, Virginia, Texas and Ohio, according to employee discussions last month, said the two sources.

Some will be offered work elsewhere in the firm, the sources said. Bank of America’s staff totaled more than 257,000 at midyear.

Chief Executive Brian Moynihan is again scaling back on operations gained in the 2008 takeover of Countrywide Financial, once the biggest U.S. mortgage lender.

After shuttering reverse-mortgage and correspondent lending units in 2011, the bank targeted smaller ex-Countrywide offices to close or consolidate, said one source.

Regulators and lawmakers blamed Countrywide for lax standards and predatory lending that contributed to the housing bubble and the crisis that followed, which has cost Bank of America more than $45 billion. Countrywide was acquired under Moynihan’s predecessor, Kenneth Lewis.

“We’re pretty much through the refi boom, and we don’t know yet what the purchase business will look like,” said Nancy Bush, founder of NAB Research, a bank research firm in New Jersey. “Countrywide was everywhere, so Bank of America’s particular challenge is to go from this hot-mess mortgage company to a rational one.”

The cuts will leave about 25 mortgage offices, said one of the sources, who added that the single biggest site affected is in suburban Cleveland and had 1,000 employees.

“We do anticipate some slowdown in mortgage production resulting from recent increases in interest rates,” Bruce Thompson, Bank of America’s chief financial officer, said in a July 17 conference call.

The cost of a 30-year fixed home loan rose to 4.57 percent last week from 3.35 percent in May.

Refinancing made up 70 percent of the mortgage market during the first half, slid to about 50 percent recently and could fall further in coming months, Franklin Codel, head of mortgage production for San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, said last month in a staff memo.

Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo’s finance chief, told an investor conference this week that rising interest rates probably won’t mean an end to the housing market’s rebound because new families are being created and homes are still affordable.

 
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