Bear Stearns -- a top Wall Street player in the nonprime mortgage market -- laid off 240 employees in its residential home loans group on Thursday, including 100 at Encore Credit, its California-based wholesale division.Shabi Asghar, president of Encore, remains with the company. (Bear bought Encore earlier this year.) Bear also closed two mortgage operations centers: one in Glen Allen, Va., and another in King of Prussia, Pa. Sources say Bear Stearns is continuing to fund nonprime loans, but at greatly reduced volumes. No changes have been made at its conduit, which buys closed loans.

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