Despite signs of an impending implosion in the local mortgage lending market, two L.A.-based mortgage lenders managed to place among the top five in the nation in financial performance last year, according to a recent report.

FirstFed Financial Corp., a Santa Monica-based mortgage lender with $9.3 billion in assets, topped the list with a score of 90.9, while Pomona-based PFF Bancorp. Inc. with $4.3 billion in assets came in third at 81.6, according to the report from Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Financial.

The financial data analysis firm ranked the nation's 100 largest thrifts based on six financial performance metrics, including core return on average assets, three-year core cash earnings per share growth and the ratio of non-performing assets to total assets. A score of 100 is considered perfect.

"The rankings show how profitable it was to be in the mortgage business in 2006," said Maria Tor, senior analyst for SNL. "However, many of the companies that did so well in 2006 are being punished in the stock market for possibly underwriting risky loans."

Tor noted that FirstFed managed to score at the top despite "credit quality concerns about FirstFed's loan originations but even in the asset quality categories of the rankings, FirstFed rated in the top half of the nation's 100 largest thrifts."

Among other L.A. County firms cited in the report was Pasadena-based IndyMac Bancorp, which came in at the 13th spot with a score of 74.2. IndyMac's stock plunged earlier this year as the extent of its exposure to the Alt-A mortgage loan market became clear. Alt-A loans are made to borrowers with good though not top level credit; late last year, a spike in Alt-A delinquencies exceeded analysts' expectations.

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