Bear Stearns ( BSC) set plans Wednesday to cut 310 jobs in its mortgage business in the latest round of firings tied to the sharp decline of the U.S. housing market.Bear said in a press release that it will combine its Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage and Encore Credit units into a single business under the name Bear Stearns Residential Mortgage. The New York-based bank said it has slashed its mortgage-origination workforce by 40% this year. A Bear spokesman declined to provide additional comment on the company's moves. Bear is only the latest big firm to slash its mortgage business as a long-running housing boom begins to unwind. Since Labor Day, rivals Lehman Brothers ( LEH), Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Credit Suisse ( CS) have announced mortgage-business layoffs. The nation's biggest independent lender, Countrywide ( CFC), said last month it would cut 20% of its workforce. The news comes as investors have fled the market for mortgage-backed securities in the wake of a surge of defaults on recent loans to homebuyers with poor credit histories. The mortgage meltdown led to a flight from risky debt of all sorts and saddled big banks with billions of dollars in loan losses that they have begun writing off in recent weeks. Bear fell 34 cents to $128.23.