Bank of America is nearing a deal to buy Countrywide Financial, the US mortgage lender hit hard by the subprime crisis. Financial Times, Daily Telegraph

Talks between BofA and Countrywide, first reported by the Financial Times last year, have been sporadic and first led to a $2bn equity investment in Countrywide by BofA in August.

However, BofA was always thought to have a strong interest in acquiring all of Countrywide to expand its mortgage origination business to match its breadth in credit cards. The parties have also discussed a joint venture, according to people familiar with the matter. Such a venture would have entailed BofA using its branch network to distribute Countrywide loans.

Countrywide shares, which had plunged in recent days, were up nearly 51%, or $2.61, to $7.73 by the close as word of the potential deal began to spread.