Countrywide Financial Corp. saw mortgage loan production fell 6.5 percent in January from the previous month, to $21.9 billion, as an increase in refinancings failed to offset a 24.5 percent decline in purchase loan production.

A 5 percent increase in loan refinancings from December, to $15 billion, helped offset the decline in purchase loan funding in January, and there are signs that loan production could rebound in a big way in February.

Countywide reported daily mortgage loan applications rose 71.6 percent from December, to 2,639, and that applications in the pipeline increased by 45.6 percent, to 51,038 — a level not seen since August.

Countrywide’s purchase loan production for January totaled $6.8 billion, a low the company has not seen in years. The Calabasas, Calif.-based lender saw purchase loan production plummet from $17.2 billion in August to $9.6 billion in September, after secondary mortgage market investors stopped buying most loans not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Countrywide responded by originating more agency-eligible loans, and shifting funding of loans to its banking division. Until January, that strategy had helped maintain purchase loan production above the $9 billion a month mark.

Credit quality in Countrywide’s $1.48 trillion servicing portfolio continued to deteriorate in January, but at a slower pace than in November and December.

Delinquencies as a percentage of unpaid principal balance rose to 7.47 percent, up 27 basis points from December. The delinquency rate, which stood at 4.32 percent a year ago, increased by 58 basis points in November and 68 basis points in December.

Foreclosures pending as a percentage of unpaid principle rose 4 basis points in January, to 1.48 percent, compared to a 16-basis-point increase in December.

Countrywide added 185 employees in loan servicing in January, even as it continued to reduce the company’s overall workforce. Head count in loan servicing reached 9,039 in January, up 26.5 percent from a year ago, while total employment in loan originations fell to 21,933, down 36.1 percent from a peak of 34,326 in July.

All told, Countrywide employed 50,114 workers at the end of the month, down 18.6 percent from 61,586 in July.

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