PennyMac Mortgage Investment Trust (PMT) said Thursday that income for the third quarter nearly tripled from a year ago, driven by consistent returns on distressed mortgage investments. The California-based real estate investment trust earned $20.5 million, or 73 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30, up from $7.7 million, or 45 cents a share, a year earlier. The company attributed the increase to prudent leveraging and an aggressive extension of its loan resolutions. "We continue to build our portfolio of distressed assets by utilizing innovative techniques, such as purchasing loans through the forward trade, which we announced last quarter," Chief Executive Stanford Kurland said. During the third quarter, PennyMac invested $266 million in residential mortgage whole loans and real estate owned properties. At the end of the quarter, the company's portfolios of residential whole loans and REOs were valued at $938 million, an increase of 33% from the previous quarter. "The opportunity to continue to acquire legacy mortgage assets should continue for the next couple of years," Kurland said. "Over that time, we look to continue our leadership in the acquisition of distressed mortgage assets, while expanding our funding levels in the correspondent lending market. We continue to see growth opportunities in the correspondent business and are targeting volume reaching $1 billion per month by the end of 2012.” Write to Justin T. Hilley. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHilley.