MBIA Inc. Monday night reported a net income of $696.7 million for the first quarter of 2009, compared to a net loss of $2.4 billion in the first quarter of 2008. The boost was thanks in part to an accounting rule that created unrealized gains on credit derivatives as MBIA’s own credit spreads widened, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

MBIA had a $1.6 billion pre-tax unrealized gain on credit derivatives in the first quarter of 2009, compared to a $3.6 billion unrealized loss on credit derivatives in the first quarter of 2008. The accounting rule discounts the value of MBIA’s liability by its own risk of nonperformance, and it would have recorded unrealized mark-to-market losses of $2.6 billion on credit derivatives without it, SEC filings said.

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