After predicting that it would earn money in the fourth quarter, Countrywide Financial Corp. posted a $422 million loss for the period. Over the past six months, the nation's largest lender/servicer has lost $1.6 billion. It also reported fourth-quarter loan production of just $61 billion, a 48% decline from the level recorded a year earlier. The company originated just $65 million in subprime loans, compared with $9.1 billion a year ago. It set aside $924 million for credit losses in the fourth quarter, compared with $937 million in the third quarter. It also took an impairment charge of $831 million tied to what it called "retained interests" in prime-quality, junior-lien home equity securitizations. Countrywide's servicing business lost $198 million (pretax) in the fourth quarter, and the firm wrote down the value of its $1.46 trillion mortgage servicing portfolio by $1.6 billion. The publicly traded lender is slated for sale to Bank of America. In a statement, Countrywide chairman and chief executive Angelo Mozilo blamed the company's performance on "further credit deterioration across the industry and continued illiquidity in the secondary mortgage markets." For the year, Countrywide lost $704 million, its first annual net loss in more than 30 years.

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