Countrywide Financial today reported that its diluted earnings per share were up 69 percent in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to increased mortgage loan production volume.

Countrywide, the top U.S. mortgage lender by total volume for 2004, said fourth-quarter and 2005 net earnings were $639 million and $2.5 billion, respectively, compared with $370 million and $2.2 billion for the comparable periods in 2004.

Earnings per share were $1.03 for the fourth quarter and $4.11 for the full year, Analysts, on average, had expected profit of $1.05 per share for Calabasas, Calif.-based Countrywide, according to a poll by Reuters Estimates.

“For the fourth quarter and full year 2005, Countrywide achieved impressive earnings growth from the comparable prior-year periods, despite a challenging transitional operating environment,” said Angelo Mozilo, the company’s CEO.

Mozilo said “volatile interest rates, declining production profit margins throughout the industry, and the adverse effects of 2005’s hurricanes, primarily Hurricane Katrina,” impacted results.

Annual mortgage loan production volume reached $491 billion, the company said, establishing a new record for Countrywide. Market share grew by more than 25 percent from 2004 to 2005, according to various market estimates, the company said.

The company’s stock was trading at $33.40a share around noon today, down almost 2.5 percent.

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