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Countrywide, other lenders rally on Fed rate cut
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Countrywide Financial Corp CFC.N shares leaped higher on Friday after the U.S. Federal Reserve lowered a key borrowing rate, making it easier for lenders to obtain credit.
The gain followed six days of declines, in which shares of the largest U.S. mortgage lender had sunk 34.9 percent to their lowest level in nearly four years.
Countrywide was one of the biggest gainers among financial services companies, which enjoyed broad-based gains after the Fed cut the discount rate, charged on direct Fed loans to banks, to 5.75 percent from 6.25 percent. The move calmed investors worried about a global credit squeeze.
The cut came a day after Calabasas, California-based Countrywide, which operates Countrywide Bank, said it borrowed $11.5 billion from a group of 40 banks after having difficulty selling short-term debt.
Countrywide announced the drawdown just 10 days after saying it had access to $46.2 billion of "highly reliable" short-term financing.
"While a rate cut may not have been deemed desirable a few short trading sessions ago, the Countrywide move dramatically upped the ante," wrote Louise Purtle, senior analyst of macro strategy at CreditSights Inc. "The question for investors now will be -- is it enough?"
Countrywide shares rose $2.05, or 10.8 percent, to $21.00 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, after earlier rising as much as 26 percent to $23.90. The shares are still down by about half since closing last year at $42.45.
Other lenders' shares also rose on Friday. The 24-member Philadelphia KBW Bank Index .BKX was up 3.5 percent, including gains of 2.9 percent at Citigroup Inc (C.N), 3.5 percent at Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and 4.4 percent at JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N).
The KBW Mortgage Finance Index .MFX, which includes Countrywide, was up 4.8 percent.
Shares of Countrywide bottomed at $15.00 in intraday trading on Thursday but closed well above that level at $18.95. Lehman Brothers Inc. analyst Bruce Harting wrote that Countrywide was a big beneficiary of speculation the Fed would pump liquidity into the financial system.
In a Friday statement, the Clearing House Association, a group of major banks, said the Fed move will encourage market participants "to take steps that would improve conditions in funding and credit markets."
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