Astoria Financial Corp., now the largest thrift in the New York City area, is buying mortgage-backed securities instead of lending to consumers, as thrifts typically do. Although this looks like a wise investment today and on paper, (strike while the iron is hot), some fear that it's a risky strategy should interest rates rise. The trouble is that Astoria has excess capital after buying many of the area's smaller thrifts, and it says it plans to make the money now in the market available for home loans over the next few years. The thrift has a respectable efficiency rating of 2.58, but that's due to its securities portfolio which is 35 percent of its interest income.
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