Fannie Mae reported record earnings and put forth an optimistic 2001 outlook that offered new evidence mortgage bankers and thrifts could enjoy an improved business climate this year.

Fannie’s fourth-quarter net income rose 3.6% from the previous quarter and 11.5% from a year earlier, to $1.16 billion, or $1.12 per diluted common share, after a $2.5 million charge for debt extinguishment.

The fourth-quarter results were in line with analysts’ estimates. Its earnings for the year jumped 15.3% from the previous year, to $4.48 billion, or $4.29 per diluted common share. This was the second straight year that Fannie posted per-share earnings growth over 15%.

Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae’s chairman and chief executive, spoke optimistically of the outlook for this year. “Our credit indicators are favorable, our portfolio growth last quarter gives us excellent momentum, and the current financial environment suggests that secondary market activity will remain at an elevated level well into this year,” he said.

Chad Yonker, an analyst with Fox-Pitt Kelton, said the outlook laid out by Fannie, if it comes to fruition, would mean different things for different players in the mortgage industry.

Mortgage bankers, will likely do very well this year, as lower short-term interest rates produce a bigger refinance market, Mr. Yonker said. Originations should increase and generate bigger revenues, he said.

Companies with strong origination capabilities could increase their market share in servicing, which provides a good fee income stream, he said.

Thomas O’Donnell, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney, concurred that mortgage bankers stand to do well, given this year’s expected refinance environment. But he said that the bankers have to make sure that they replace runoff in their servicing portfolios with new originations, so that their servicing portfolios don’t lose value.

All things being equal, though, Mr. Yonker said a booming refinance market is not a positive for mortgage insurance companies. Policy cancellations could slow revenue growth, while increased volume will jack up expenses, he said.

Credit quality has been so good recently that it is likely to show some sign of decline, which won’t do mortgage insurers any favors, he said.

Thrifts that carry lots of adjustable-rate mortgages in portfolio will experience slower balance sheet growth as some of those borrowers refinance, Mr. Yonker said. Offsetting this, borrowing costs will drop, and margins will increase, because of the Fed’s rate cuts, he said.

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