Countrywide Home Loans, Calabasas, Calif., the nation's largest mortgage banking firm, plans to close two "central processing units," cutting about 300 jobs in the process. The company labeled the moves as "strategic" but also cited a downturn in loan applications and what a spokesman called a "seasonal" decline in production. The CPUs that will be shuttered Jan. 3 are in Westlake Village, Calif. (200 jobs), and Sunrise, Fla. (100 jobs). The company said it will rely more on its 39 regional operations centers. Come January it will have just two CPUs, which are more national in scope. Lenders are starting to experience a decline in loan production, but executives say their biggest concern isn't volume but profit margins. They cite a flat yield curve as a key factor and the reluctance of some originators to raise their rates.

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