Earnings at Countrywide Financial Corp. plummeted in the first quarter amid the meltdown of the subprime lending sector.

The Calabasas-based thrift said Thursday that its net income fell 37 percent to $434 million (72 cents per share), down from $683 million ($1.10) in the same period a year earlier. Revenue fell 15 percent to $2.41 billion.

Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo said in a conference call that while the company's core operations delivered an otherwise strong quarter earnings were lowered by charges related to higher delinquencies and an increase in loan loss reserves.

The lender's mortgage banking unit saw net income fall to $100 million, down from $555 million in 2006. Moreover, its servicing unit, a department involve in loan collection and remittance, turned in a first quarter loss of $69 million compared to a profit of $284 million in the same period last year.

Mozilo said despite the "turbulent mortgage market" he was optimistic about long-term profitability and promised to "move mountains" in an effort to urge the government to help troubled borrowers.

Shares of Countrywide closed up $1.20, or 3.2 percent, to $38.92 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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