- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Countrywide Financial Corp. said yesterday home loan delinquencies and foreclosures rose in January as more borrowers struggled to make their mortgage payments.

The nation’s largest mortgage lender and servicer said loan delinquencies as a percentage of unpaid principal balance increased to 7.47 percent last month from 7.2 percent in December and 4.32 percent in January 2007.

Loan servicers collect mortgage payments and distribute them to the owners of the mortgages. The Calabasas, Calif.-based lender services mortgages totaling about $1.48 trillion.

Foreclosures pending as a percentage of unpaid principal balance increased to 1.48 percent in January, from 1.44 percent in December and 0.77 percent in January 2007.

Delinquencies and pending foreclosures increased despite stepped up measures outlined by Countrywide in recent months to help borrowers manage their mortgage payments.

Mortgage loan fundings slipped 6 percent to $22 billion from $23.4 billion in December, and were down 41 percent from $37 billion a year earlier.

Still, the lender’s average daily mortgage applications rose last month to $2.6 billion from December’s $1.5 billion.

Interest rates have been falling this year, and that’s fueled a spike in mortgage applications industrywide, particularly as homeowners look to refinance existing loans.

Countrywide’s mortgage pipeline — loans in progress that have not been funded — stood at $51 billion at the end of January, up from $35 billion in December, the company said.

Following last summer’s collapse of the subprime mortgage market, the lender has tightened underwriting criteria and all but ceased making subprime loans for borrowers with past credit problems.

It did not list a January figure for fundings of subprime mortgages. It funded $2.9 billion in subprime loans a year earlier.

Home equity loan fundings plunged to $872 million, down 93.6 percent from $3.6 billion a year earlier.

The lender’s slate of adjustable rate mortgages fell by 79.5 percent to $2.8 billion, from $13.7 billion in January 2007.

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