Business

Countrywide loan delinquencies up

Countywide shares fell on news of rising delinquencies and falling loans Wednesday.  (Kevork Djansezian / The Associated Press)
Countywide shares fell on news of rising delinquencies and falling loans Wednesday. (Kevork Djansezian / The Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES -- Countrywide Financial Corp., its stock pummeled this week by rumors of bankruptcy and lackluster housing market forecasts, said Wednesday that the percentage of borrowers who missed payments on home loans last month rose.

Countrywide said 6.96 percent of the loans in its servicing portfolio were delinquent last month, up from 5.02 percent in December 2006.

The increase signals worsening trouble for the nation's largest mortgage lender and for the entire mortgage sector.

The company also reported that it had funded $23.5 billion in loans in December, down from $42.8 billion a year ago.

"Their new business is down roughly 50 percent," said Sean Egan, managing director of independent ratings firm Egan-Jones Ratings Co. in Philadelphia.

"The market is fairly concerned whether the company is going to be able to correct the fundamental problems that it's faced with," he said.

The new figures drove Countrywide stock down by more than 15 percent at one point before it recovered to end down 35 cents, or 6.4 percent, at $5.12.

The decline followed a loss Tuesday of $2.17, or 28.4 percent, after the company denied rumors that a bankruptcy filing was imminent.

Wachovia Capital Markets analyst Jim Shanahan suggested that Countrywide stock will remain volatile at least until the company reports its financial results for the fourth quarter later this month.

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