Mortgage insurer Old Republic International (ORI) reported a loss of $12.9 million in the first quarter, down from income of $25 million from a year earlier as its guaranty business nearly tripled its losses. The company’s mortgage guaranty group reported losses of more than $101 million, widening from a $34.1 million one year ago. Income from mortgage premiums declined as well, dropping to $113.9 million from $136.2 million in the first quarter of 2010. Old Republic said the reductions stem from lower volumes of new insurance, premium refunds related to claim rescissions and the termination of some captive reinsurance and pool insurance contracts. “Moreover, new business volume reflected ongoing weakness from the downturn in overall mortgage originations, industry wide penetration of the nation’s current mortgage market, and the effects of the more selective underwriting guidelines in place since late 2007,” the company said. Title insurance for the company picked up, however. This group earned $2.6 million in the first quarter, up from a loss of $8.6 million a year ago. Growing market share generated $332.8 million in fees, up 30% from $255 million in the first quarter of last year. “From a business segment standpoint, quarter-over-quarter comparisons reflect relatively flat profitability for Old Republic’s general insurance business, a much greater operating loss in mortgage guaranty, and a positive turn to title insurance profitability for the fourth consecutive quarter,” the company said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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