Washington Mutual Inc., Seattle, has reported earnings of $2.88 billion ($3.26 per share) for 2004, down from $3.88 billion ($4.21 per share) in 2003.WaMu cited lower mortgage origination volume and a one-time reverse of loan loss reserves in 2003 as factors behind the decline in earnings. Home loan origination volume totaled $41.59 billion, down from $51.50 billion in the fourth quarter of last year. But WaMu chairman and chief executive Kerry Killinger said the mortgage unit exceeded his expectations. Earlier this year, he had warned that the mortgage unit's earnings might be "negative or slightly positive" for 2004 as the company struggled to overhaul its expense structure and deal with lower volume. But in a conference call with analysts, he said operational improvements and other factors resulted in higher-than-expected mortgage earnings. WaMu's mortgage banking segment earned $570 million for 2004, down from $1.30 billion in 2003. Mortgage servicing rights, including amortization and the effect of hedges, contributed a net cost of $277 million in the fourth quarter. WaMu can be found online at http://www.wamu.com.

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