Among the small tribe of analysts and consultants who follow such things, Wells Fargo & Co. holds a reputation for savvily hedging the value of its mortgage servicing portfolio. In most years, that means that the company's hedges tidily cancel out any losses in the value of its mortgage servicing rights.

Last year, however, Wells didn't come out even. Its combined portfolio booked $6.3 billion. In the fourth quarter alone it logged not only a $1.1 billion servicing gain — but another $800 million from its hedge against it.

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