Countrywide Loans Up 15%, Foreclosures Double

Countrywide Financial, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, on Tuesday said it made 15 percent more home loans in May as the pace of refinancings increased, though the foreclosure rate doubled.

Mortgage lending at Calabasas, California-based Countrywide totaled $44.42 billion in May, up from $38.73 billion a year earlier. New home loans edged up 2 percent to $18.64 billion, while refinancings increased 26 percent to $25.78 billion.

Countrywide also said pending foreclosures as a percentage of unpaid principal balances rose to 0.90 percent from 0.45 percent a year earlier, and 0.85 percent in April.

Foreclosures based on the number of loans serviced rose to 0.71 percent from 0.47 percent a year earlier, and 0.69 percent in April, Countrywide said.

Countrywide has long said it expected to add market share as the U.S. housing slowdown and rising defaults caused weaker rivals to scale back. It said it ended May with $69.74 billion of loans in its pipeline, the most since October 2005.

At the same time, Countrywide is also trying to cut risk. Nonprime loans, including "subprime" loans, sank 43 percent to $2.19 billion, just 5 percent of total volume.

The portfolio of loans that Countrywide services grew 18 percent to $1.39 trillion.

Countrywide plans to hold its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday. The company opposes a proposal calling for it to give shareholders a non-binding vote on pay for top executives. Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo received $42.98 million of compensation for 2006.

Countrywide shares closed Monday at $37.84 on the New York Stock Exchange. They have fallen 11 percent this year, compared with a 4 percent drop for the KBW Mortgage Finance Index.