* Breaks even on per share basis in fourth quarter
* Analysts expected a loss of $0.03/share
* Delinquent loans 8.92 pct as of Dec. 31
* Shares rise 2.4 pct before the bell
Jan 23 Mortgage insurer MGIC Investment Corp
posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss as fewer
U.S. homeowners defaulted in a recovering housing market.
MGIC shares rose 2.4 percent to $9.30 in premarket trading.
Rising house prices mean fewer homeowners have loans that
exceed the value of their property, reducing delinquencies.
The percentage of MGIC's loans that were delinquent,
excluding bulk loans, fell to 8.92 percent as of Dec. 31 from
11.87 percent a year earlier.
"I remain encouraged by the trends in home prices and
employment that we have benefited from over the last several
quarters," Chief Executive Curt Culver said in a statement.
MGIC reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.4 million, or
break even on a per share basis, compared with a loss of $386.7
million, or $1.91 per share, a year earlier.
The year-ago quarter included a one-time charge of $267.5
million to reflect settlement of a dispute with Freddie Mac and
an increase in loss reserve estimates.
Analysts on average had expected a loss of 3 cents per
share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Mortgage insurers such as MGIC, Radian Group Inc and
life insurer Genworth Financial Inc's mortgage unit
protect lenders in cases where homebuyers make down payments
below a certain threshold.
The preliminary risk-to-capital ratio at MGIC's combined
insurance operations was 18.4-to-1 as of Dec 31. Mortgage
insurance regulators commonly allow for a maximum
risk-to-capital ratio of 25-to-1.
MGIC shares closed at $9.08 on the New York Stock Exchange
on Wednesday. They have tripled in value over the last year.