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Friday's Financial Winners & Losers

FGIC divorces its municipal bonds from its riskier products.

The financial sector took a familiar, languid dip under water amid a smattering of mixed news on Friday: the NYSE Financial Sector Index was hemmed in with the major averages, recently losing 54.12 points, or 0.7%, to 7,350.17.

Bond insurers were headlining again today after

Financial Guarantee Insurance

declared its intention to split the solid parts of its business from the rotten ones -- that is, municipal bonds vs. those tied to risky structured finance securities -- according to New York state Insurance Superintendant Eric Dinallo, who

made a suggestion to that effect on Capitol Hill yesterday. "We cannot allow the millions of individual Americans who invested in what was a low-risk investment lose money because of subprime excesses," Dinallo had declared yesterday. Governor Eliot Spitzer, for his part, had warned that "if we do not take action, this could be a financial tsunami that causes substantial damage throughout our economy."

FGIC's move came a day after Moody's

cut its rating to A3, down six notches from the crucial triple-A rating that bond insurers must retain in order to run their collective business. Struggling rivals

MBIA

(MBI) - Get MBIA Inc. Report

and

Ambac

(ABK)

, the rankings of which are also in peril at the major credit-ratings agencies, remained quiet today as their shares took respective slides of 5.6% and 5%.

Cypress Group

is among FGIC's investors along with fellow private equity firm

Blackstone

(BX) - Get Blackstone Group Inc. Class A Report

-- lately down 0.9% at $16.68 -- and mortgage investor

PMI

(PMI)

, which was down by 1.2% at $7.26.

Sallie Mae

(SLM) - Get SLM Corp Report

, meanwhile, said it succeeded in pushing back the date when a penalty rate kicks into gear on its $30 billion loan from

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report

and

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Report

, which was rendered in connection with Sallie's

failed merger deal with those banks and J.C. Flowers last year.

The penalty rate was supposed to be enacted today, but now it's been extended to the later of March 1, or -- assuming Sallie closes $35 billion in new asset-backed commercial paper facilities before that date -- sometime between March and early April. BofA and JPMorgan are arranging the new facilities, as well. Sallie's credit rating was

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downgraded by Standard & Poor's earlier this month in large part due to concerns that it wouldn't obtain new financing in time.

Still, Sallie shares were lately sinking 47 cents, or 2.2%, to $21.18.

Mortgage lender

Countrywide

(CFC)

saw some mixed trading after announcing a 7.47% January delinquency rate as a ratio of unpaid principal balance, and a 1.48% foreclosure rate on that same basis, up from December's respective figures of 7.2% and 1.44%. That also represents a shared surge from year-earlier percentages of 4.32% for delinquencies and 0.77% for foreclosures. Shares of the Calabasas, Calif., company were losing 2.4% at $21.14.

Elsewhere, a Sterne Agee analyst slapped sell stickers on New York brokers

Jefferies

(JEF) - Get Jefferies Financial Group Inc. Report

and

Cowen Group

(COWN) - Get Cowen Inc Class A Report

, as well as San Francisco outfit

Thomas Weisel Partners

(TWPG)

. Shares were pulled down 4.1%, 13.3%, and 9.3%, respectively.

And the

Nasdaq Stock Market

I:IXIC

announced that its

three-way deal for ultimate ownership of Nordic exchange OMX should close on Feb. 27, given that Borse Dubai has successfully tendered shares of OMX, which clears the way for Nasdaq to pick them up. Nasdaq shares were easing 2.6% to $41.14.

By contrast, shares of

NYSE Euronext

(NYX)

traded mostly higher after the Big Board agreed to buy 5% of India's Multi Commodity Exchange -- "the maximum equity interest permitted by foreign investors in derivative exchanges under current Indian law" -- for an undisclosed sum. The deal should close within the first half. NYSE shares were recently adding 0.5% to $68.50

Mortgage insurer

Radian

(RDN) - Get Radian Group Inc. Report

, meanwhile, was recouping some of this week's heavy losses despite reporting a fourth-quarter shortfall of $618 million, or $7.74 a share, thanks to damaging exposures to risky mortgages. That included Credit-Based Asset Servicing and Securitization (or C-BASS), Radian's

fizzled subprime joint venture with

MGIC

(MTG) - Get MGIC Investment Corporation Report

. A year earlier, the Philadelphia-based firm had earned $158.4 million, or $1.96 a share. Nevertheless, shares were spiking 63 cents, or 9.1%, to $7.55.