E*Trade Financial ( ETFC) shares were surging 25% Wednesday, as new data showed delinquencies in the online broker's troubled home equity portfolio could be stabilizing.

The New York-based company said that home equity loans in early delinquency -- those that are delinquent by 30 to 90 days -- dropped 8% in February as compared to a month earlier. Early delinquencies in the $9.8 billion portfolio dropped a cumulative rate of 16% since December, it said.

E*Trade shares recently were up 23 cents to $1.14 as investors speculated that an improvement in the early delinquencies could mean that the housing bottom is nearing, some observers say.

But home equity loans that are late by 90 to 179 days -- those the company identifies as "at-risk" loans -- rose 8% from a month earlier. And those that are more than 180 days late rose 9% month over month, E*Trade said.

Total delinquent home equity loans represented 7.6% of the portfolio at the end of February, roughly flat from earlier periods.

Still another troubling figure is in E*Trade's $12.7 billion residential mortgage portfolio. The company said that loans that are delinquent by more than 90 days rose 22% vs. January.

E*Trade's total loan portfolio, which includes residential mortgages, home equity loans and other consumer loans is roughly $25 billion. Total early delinquencies fell by 4% month-to-month and by 7% cumulatively since December, it said.

The company, which forayed into mortgage lending and securities business during the housing boom earlier this decade, has been one of the worst-hit companies since the beginning of the credit crisis. Among other things, the company has been hobbled by delinquencies and defaults in its home equity loan portfolio -- most of which were second-lien securities not backed by a first-lien mortgage at E*Trade.

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