Countrywide Financial Corp., Calabasas, Calif., has reported consolidated net earnings of $688.9 million ($1.13 per share) for the first quarter, a 27% increase from $543.2 million ($0.90 per share) in the first quarter of 2004.Pretax earnings by the company's mortgage banking operations rose to $772 million from $561 million a year earlier. "Countrywide's heightened profitability was driven primarily by an increased contribution from the mortgage banking segment, where pretax earnings were up 38% from the same quarter a year ago and 196% from last quarter," said Angelo R. Mozilo, Countrywide's chairman and chief executive officer. Pretax earnings totaled $735 million in the mortgage production sector and $17 million in the servicing sector, where further improvement "was limited primarily by lower-of-cost-or-market accounting, as the market value for mortgage servicing rights increased by $168 million more than the increase in carrying value," the company said. Countrywide's servicing portfolio stood at a record $893 billion as of March 31, up $211 billion from that of a year earlier, the company reported. The company can be found online at http://www.countrywide.com.

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