Stewart Information Services Corp. today reported net earnings of $11.1 million for the first quarter of 2004, a drop from $19.9 million reported for the first quarter last year.

On a diluted per share basis, net earnings were $.61, compared with $1.11 for the first quarter of 2003.

Revenues in the first quarter increased 5 percent to $465 million from $441 million in the same period last year.

Title orders for the company for the first quarter were down 17 percent from the same time last year. The company attributed the drop primarily to the decline in refinancings.

Total revenues increased 5 percent in the first quarter because of increased premiums from agencies, home prices and commercial business, according to a statement from the company. Revenues from direct operations declined less than order counts because refinancing transactions represented a larger portion of orders in 2003 and the company earns less revenue on refinancing transactions.

“Our long-term plan is ongoing,” Stewart Morris Jr., president, said in a statement. “We are increasing higher-margin commercial lines of business, developing, acquiring and using technology to increase productivity for our customers and our associates. We are creating innovative products and packages.”

Stewart provides title insurance and related information services throughout the United States and in several international markets.

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Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to samantha@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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