The first-quarter earnings reports of mortgage companies have so far had a common theme: Origination volume remains will above the level of a year earlier, but profits are under pressure because of competitive pricing. And many companies have been selling what amounts to the family jewels - servicing rights - to prop up reported earnings.

A case in point is Plaza Home Mortgage Corp., Santa Ana, Calif., which earned just $21,000 in the first quarter of this year, or less than 1 cent a share. A year earlier, the company earned $2.9 million, or 26 cents a share.

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