Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, said it originated more mortgage loans in the first two months of this year than it did for all of the fourth quarter last year.

The statement appeared in the same release announcing the company was slashing its quarterly common stock dividend from $0.34 per share to $0.05 per share.

The move will allow Wells Fargo to retain an additional $5 billion in common equity annually, and chief financial officer Howard Atkins said the company plans to reinvest the money in its businesses "at a time when we can profitably gain market share for the long term."

He added mortgage banking was one of the reasons for Wells Fargo's strong operating results in the first two months of the year.

"Mortgage originations for the first two months alone were $59 billion, exceeding in two months the exceptionally strong fourth quarter of 2008, and mortgage applications were $107 billion," Atkins said.

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