Updated from 11:30 a.m. EDTAs has been the case for several weeks and likely will be for many more, the story in the financial sector continued to be the uncertainty surrounding mortgage banking and access to credit. The Nasdaq Financial 100 was up 1.1%, and the NYSE Financial Sector Index was up 0.3%. The S&P 500 Financial Sector Index was up 0.5%. Among individual stocks, Capital One ( COF) was gaining 2.6% to $68.47 a day after the McLean, Va., lender cut its outlook and revealed plans to close its mortgage division. While shutting GreenPoint Mortgage, Capital One will eliminate 1,900 jobs and take a charge of $860 million. The company now expects to earn $5 a share this year, down from the previous forecast of $7.15. Still, the move away from mortgages cheered investors, who have grown distrustful of the sector. Elsewhere, mortgage-banking firm Accredited Home Lenders ( LEND) rose 1.7% to $6.55 after its announcement that it will trade around $1 billion of loans through a 90-day purchase agreement. The transaction will reduce the San Diego-based company's exposure to margin calls on the loans, Accredited said. Also on the rise was Countrywide ( CFC), the Calabasas, Calif., mortgage provider. The company's stock, which has been yanked back and forth in recent sessions, closed up 10% to $21.79. The reason for the upward move was a report in The Wall Street Journal, which said some investors believe Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) might be interested in acquiring some parts of Countrywide if it looked to sell.
Financial services firm Friedman Billings Ramsey ( FBR) said it has sold about $4.95 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities at a loss of about $57 million. After the sale, FBR owns an agency and AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities portfolio worth roughly $1.2 billion. The Arlington, Va., company said the sale was meant to "reduce leverage during this period of disruption and uncertainty in the asset-backed financing market and to better position its balance sheet to take advantage of future investment opportunities." FBR closed down 2.2% at $4.40. Puerto Rico-based First BanCorp ( FBP) gained 1.3% to $10.61 following word that the company has filed the quarterly reports that were due to the Securities and Exchange Commission for past years. First BanCorp is still working on its 2007 quarterly reports and hopes to file them soon. Additionally, the company, the parent of FirstBank Puerto Rico, said it has deposited $61 million of the funds required by the proposed settlement of a shareholder lawsuit. The board of Peoples Financial ( PFBX) authorized the repurchase of 2.5% of the Biloxi, Miss., bank holding company's stock. The buyback would cover around 136,000 shares outstanding. Peoples was down 4.2% to $19.01. First United ( FUNC), a financial holding company based in Oakland, Md., also set plans for its own buyback. The company's board authorized a repurchase for up to 5% of its common stock, or around 307,500 shares. First United was down 1% at $19.26.