Countrywide Financial Corp., Calabasas, Calif., has reported net earnings of $683.5 million ($1.10 per share) for the first quarter, a 1% decline from $688.9 million ($1.13 per share) in the first quarter of 2005.Pretax earnings by the company's mortgage production sector rose from $102 million in the fourth quarter to $284 million, chiefly as a result of improved gain-on-sale margins, the company said. However, these earnings were down dramatically from $735 million a year earlier because of higher interest rates and a flatter yield curve, according to Countrywide. Angelo R. Mozilo, Countrywide's chairman and chief executive officer, said the production sector's pretax margin rose to 30 basis points in the first quarter, compared with 9 bps in the fourth quarter. The loan servicing sector produced $249 million in pretax earnings, up from $17 million a year earlier, the company reported. Countrywide can be found online at http://www.countrywide.com.

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