Low rates keep helping Countrywide Credit Industries. The nation's largest independent mortgage banking company earned 27% more than a year earlier in the three months through August.

Earnings totaled $95.1 million, or 81 cents per diluted share-a penny above the Wall Street consensus estimate.

When rates fall, borrowers refinance. That is good for originators but not so good for servicers, whose portfolios shrink. But Countrywide uses what amounts to a "macro hedge" strategy: Its large origination business offsets prepayments.

Over time Countrywide "could become a good flight-to-quality name in this turbulent market," said Ken Posner, an analyst at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. "They seem to be doing very well, operationally and financially."

"Whatever happens to rates, whatever Alan Greenspan does, this is turning out to be a very good environment" for Countrywide, he said.

The company, which is based in Calabasas, Calif., originated $22.9 billion of loans in the latest quarter, the second of its fiscal year. That was more than double the year-earlier total.

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