Stewart Information Services Corp. reported second-quarter net earnings of $30 million, down from $41 million for the second quarter of 2003.

On a diluted per share basis, net earnings were $1.65, compared with $2.29 for the second quarter of 2003.

Revenues in the second quarter increased 1 percent to $565 million from $558 million for the same period last year.

Total revenues for the first half of 2004 were $1 billion, up 3 percent from the same period a year ago. Earnings for the first six months totaled $41.1 million, or $2.26 per diluted share, versus $60.9 million, or $3.40 per diluted share, for the first six months of 2003.

Title orders per working day for the second quarter of 2004 were down 29 percent from the same period in 2003. For the month of June 2004, orders per working day declined 42 percent compared with the same period in 2003. The decrease in orders was primarily attributable to a decline in refinancing transactions beginning in the third quarter of 2003, when mortgage interest rates increased. Rates rose above prior-year levels in May 2004. While current rates have retreated to the 6 percent level, in June rates were more than 100 basis points higher than a year ago.

Total revenues increased slightly in the second quarter of this year primarily because of increased acquisitions, commercial business and home prices. Revenues from direct operations also increased slightly, while order counts declined primarily because refinancing transactions represented a larger portion of orders in 2003. However, the company generally earns less revenue on a refinancing transaction.

Stewart (NYSE:STC) provides title insurance and related information services throughout the United States and in several international markets.

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