SAO PAULO, May 24 (Reuters) - State-controlled Caixa Econômica Federal, Brazil's largest mortgage lender, reported a sharp jump in first-quarter profit on Wednesday as loan delinquencies continued to drop.
Brasilia-based Caixa posted a net income of 1.5 billion reais ($458.77 million), up 81.8 percent from a year earlier.
Excluding extraordinary items, net earnings grew 49.6 percent to 1.7 billion reais ($519.94 million).
In a statement, Caixa said delinquencies for 90 days or more fell to the equivalent of 2.8 percent of outstanding loans, down 0.7 percentage point from a year earlier and 1 percentage point below the average of Brazil's banking industry.
Since taking over in mid-2016, Chief Executive Gilberto Occhi has fine-tuned Caixa's credit risk assessment models to curb a surge in defaults and bad loans. Last year, they touched all-time highs in some segments.
Delinquencies at Caixa are historically below the industry average since more than 60 percent of its loan book is earmarked for secured, collateralized mortgage lending.
Caixa's loan book rose 4.5 percent in the first quarter to 715 billion reais.
$1 = 3.2696 reais Reporting by Aluísio Alves; writing by Silvio Cascione; editing by Jason Neely and W Simon