WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The mortgage insurer Triad Guaranty Inc. said Thursday that it had earned $8.4 million in the fourth quarter, 1% less than a year earlier.

The drop may reflect a jump in refinancing. Mortgage insurance companies generally insure a smaller percentage of refinance loans than purchase loans, because in many states borrowers need not carry the insurance after they reach 25% equity.

On a per-share bases, Triad's fourth-quarter earnings fell 1.5%, to 61 cents. Full-year earnings rose 15%, to $35 million, or $2.55 per share.

Net new insurance written during the quarter totaled $1.3 billion, 49.7% more than a earlier. The full-year total, $4.4 billion, was about level with 1999's, the company said. Refinance business accounted for 15.2% of the fourth quarter's total and 13.2% of the year.

Triad's ratio of losses to premiums earned was 10.6% for the fourth quarter and for all of 2000, compared with 11.1% for 1999. The combined loss and expense ratio improved to 44.3% for 2000, down from 45.6% for 1999.

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