Countrywide Financial Corp. reported a 39 percent drop in net earnings for the fourth quarter, missing analysts’ estimates by a long shot. For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Countrywide said earnings slipped to $343 million or $0.56 per diluted share, compared to $564 million or $0.94 per share for the comparable period a year ago. Thomson First Call analysts had estimated earnings ranging from $0.71 to $0.95 per share for the company. Shares in the Calabasas-based company fell $2.12 to $35.91 on the news. Countrywide officials attributed the results to the company’s mortgage banking segment, saying that while production was in line with expectations, a flattening of the yield curve, tightening of mortgage-swap spreads and a reduction in interest rate volatility led to the earnings miss. Hedging strategies related to mortgage banking operations have also been a factor in Washington Mutual’s recent financial performance. For the full year, Countrywide reported earnings declined 2 percent to $2.3 billion or $3.83 per share.