jamessaft1(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

If you thought the U.S. housing crash could be blunted if only lenders would cut delinquent borrowers a break, it is perhaps time to move on to another vain hope.

That’s right, the loan modification movement – pushed by the U.S. administration and others as a means of keeping non-paying borrowers in their houses, keeping those same houses from flooding the market as foreclosures, and even helping beleaguered lenders – is running into a reality-shaped wall.

An exhaustive study of loan modifications by economists at the Boston Federal Reserve, under which delinquent borrowers are given lower rates, more time, or even cuts in the principal amount owed, showed fundamental problems with the way that idea works when put into practice.

Looking at data that covers about 60 percent of U.S. mortgages the authors, Manuel Adelino, Kristopher Gerardi, and Paul S. Willen, came up with two important conclusions.

First, securitization, whatever its other shortcomings, is not an important factor in stopping loan servicers from cutting deals with delinquent borrowers.