From the Los Angeles Times
Countrywide leads mortgage sector shares down
The mortgage giant says 'disruptions' could hurt earnings but CEO Mozilo is optimistic about the Fed's role.
From Bloomberg News
August 11, 2007
Countrywide Financial Corp. led shares of U.S. mortgage companies lower as demand for loans and sources of new money dried up amid a crisis in the sub-prime segment. But Countrywide's chief executive said the Federal Reserve's move to pump more than $38 billion into the banking system Friday could help restart stalled credit markets.
In a regulatory filing late Thursday, Calabasas-based Countrywide, the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, said "unprecedented disruptions" in the mortgage market could reduce its earnings. The company also said it couldn't say how it would be affected by the "rapidly evolving" credit situation.
Countrywide shares opened 16% lower Friday before recovering to close down 80 cents, or 2.8%, at $27.86.
A wave of defaults on home loans made to people with poor credit has toppled at least 70 mortgage companies since late last year as well as half a dozen hedge funds that bought securities backed by such loans. Now, even the biggest mortgage lenders, such as Countrywide, could face a cash shortage because investors who normally buy their loans are avoiding them.
The credit worries have expanded beyond the sub-prime sector to other types of home loans and even to the market for corporate debt. Banks roiled by the crisis are shifting assets into cash, prompting the Federal Reserve and other nations' central banks to inject money into the financial system.
Any hope that mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could help ease the funding crunch died Friday as their federal regulator said it wouldn't raise limits on how much mortgage debt the companies can hold in their portfolios.
The markets for mortgage bonds that don't carry guarantees from government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac has "seized up," Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo said Friday.
Mozilo said the Fed's decision to pump more than $38 billion into the banking system, following a $24-billion infusion Thursday, could bolster confidence enough to return liquidity to credit markets.
"The action of the Fed today may change everything," he said in an interview. "It certainly provides liquidity to the banks. I feel very positive about the move."
The Fed's actions let banks get access to much-needed cash directly from the central bank without being viewed as distressed companies, Mozilo said. He said Countrywide, which owns a bank, hadn't borrowed from the Fed.
Countrywide executives including Mozilo have said the company would benefit from a shakeout that eliminates competitors and overcapacity.
But asked Friday which large home lenders might fail, Mozilo said, "I hope none. I hope to God none. At this point, any time another goes down, it just adds to the problem."
In other developments:
* Washington Mutual Inc., the largest U.S. savings and loan and also a big mortgage lender, dropped 81 cents, or 2.2%, to $35.95. The Seattle-based company said late Thursday that liquidity had "diminished significantly" in the market for home loans made to borrowers who don't meet top credit standards.
* Shares of Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co., a San Diego-based sub-prime lender, soared $2.78, or 45%, to $8.91 after the firm said it received approval for a takeover by Lone Star Funds. But the private equity firm later said it wouldn't complete the acquisition, citing "drastic deterioration" in the lender's financial condition. Accredited shares plunged 48% in after-hours trading to $4.66.
* The stock of Milwaukee-based MGIC Investment Corp., the No. 1 mortgage insurer, sank $5.58, or 13%, to $36.21.
* HomeBanc Corp., an Atlanta-based mortgage lender, filed for bankruptcy protection, two days after saying it would sell some of its assets to Countrywide. The company said this week that bankers had cut off credit.
* Beazer Homes USA Inc. delayed filing its quarterly earnings report, citing an internal probe of its mortgage business. The Atlanta builder's shares dropped 70 cents, or 4.6%, to $14.50 after hours in the wake of the announcement. It plunged 9.4% to $15.19 in regular trading.