WASHINGTON -- The record number of home-loan refinancings in the third quarter was pure punishment for some companies in the mortgage business. But for Freddie Mac, the main effect was beneficial: new loans.

Earnings of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. jumped 24% as its loan portfolio grew briskly and its securitization business surged. On Monday, the McLean, Va.-based company reported net income of $200 million for the quarter, up from $180 million a year earlier.

"Strong earnings growth and near-record business volumes . . . once again demonstrated the fundamental financial strength of the corporation," says Leland C. Brendsel, chairman.

Stock analysts generally agreed. Bruce W. Harting, vice president at Salomon Brothers, is looking for even stronger earnings when the refinancing boom slackens and Freddie's float losses fall. "There's a potential earnings explosion" from the large mortgage portfolio Freddie has grown during the refi waves, Mr. Harting said.

Unlike rival Fannie Mae, Freddie started building its mortgage portfolio only recently, and is not weighed down by high-cost long-term debt as Fannie is, Mr. Harting said.

Freddie's mortgage portfolio grew to almost $46 billion, from $28 billion in the quarter last year. Interest income on those mortgages also jumped to $835 million in the third quarter from $569 million in the same quarter of 1992.

Freddie securitized loans worth $52.9 billion in the third quarter, compared with to $38.4 billion in the same quarter last year. Management and guarantee income from those loans was $239 million in the third quarter, after the company accelerated its amortization of $30 million of deferred costs associated with the securitized mortgages. In the third quarter last year, Freddie earned $243 million in management and guarantee fees.

The major drag in the third quarter was Freddie's $70 million float loss.

Freddie's mortgaged-backed securities program leaves it liable for a final interest payment to investors after mortgages prepay. Freddie invests the principal turned over to it by lenders at short term rates, but it must pay investors the higher coupon rates of the mortgage-backed security. With high refinance activity, the figure, also termed float loss, can be substantial.

Net float loss was double the year-earlier figure in the third quarter and is expected to rise further in the current one.

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