PMI Group Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. mortgage insurer, reported its seventh straight unprofitable quarter Monday.

The Walnut Creek, Calif., company said its first-quarter loss narrowed by more than half from a year earlier, to $115.3 million, or $1.41 a share.

Mortgage insurers have faced mounting defaults over the past year. Last year the industry tightened standards on the types of borrowers they cover as home sales fell, leaving fewer new policyholders to supplement the riskier policies sold in previous years.

PMI's premium revenue fell 11%, to $188.1 million.

About 54% of the newly insured loans were to borrowers who refinanced their mortgages as interest rates fell.

The insurer spent $2.24 on claims and expenses for every dollar it collected in premiums in the first quarter — an improvement from the $2.71 it spent in the first quarter of last year.

Until 2007 private mortgage policies had been among the most profitable types of coverage sold by insurers.

From 2004 to 2006 members of the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America reported a profit margin of at least 35 cents for every dollar they collected in premiums. Auto insurers made less than 5 cents on every dollar in 2006, according to A.M. Best Co.

The rise in defaults last year caused a PMI rival, Triad Guaranty Inc., to stop selling coverage in July.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., insurer said April 1 that an Illinois regulator ordered the firm to defer 40% of claims payments because of "uncertainty" over whether it will meet its obligations to banks that purchased coverage.

PMI's book value per share, which measures assets minus liabilities, fell 9.5% from the end of last year, to $14.16.

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