It's a little early to tell whether mortgage originations have bottomed out. But monthly reports from Countrywide Credit Industries, the nation's largest home lender, hint the slump may be ending.
As a result, one stock analyst has raised his estimates for the Pasadena, Calif., company's earnings this year and next.
Countrywide's November loan production was $2.23 billion, up roughly 1% from the October level and about 2% from the year's low, set in July. Much of the gain came from correspondent lending, as consumer business continued to slip. At the same time, the pipeline of loans being processed has climbed steadily in recent months, reaching $4.4 billion in November.
All of this suggests that loan production will continue to improve, however slowly.
North American Mortgage Co., another big lender, reported that applications increased in November. Both lenders are showing growth in the origination of adjustable-rate loans.
The analyst, Thomas O'Donnell of Smith Barney, noted Countrywide's gains in production, servicing portfolio, average daily applications, and the pipeline. He increased his earnings per share estimates to $1.10 for 1995 (from 90 cents) and $1.35 for 1996 (from $1.35).
But Mr. O'Donnell is maintaining his "underperform" rating on the stock, noting that aggressive pricing creates a risk that higher production may not necessarily lead to higher earnings."