The mortgage-finance business is a huge part of what keeps the real-estate market functioning, and Walker & Dunlop (NYSE:WD) has played a pivotal role in offering commercial and multifamily project financing. Yet even as it goes up against peers such as Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) and CBRE Group (NYSE:CBG), Walker & Dunlop has come under share-price pressure. Uncertainty about the future direction of interest rates and the health of the commercial real-estate market are holding back the stock, but coming into Wednesday's fourth-quarter financial report, Walker & Dunlop investors still think it will be able to grow its earnings. Let's take a closer look at how Walker & Dunlop has fared recently and what it's likely to tell investors in its report.

Stats on Walker & Dunlop

Analyst EPS Estimate

$0.64

Change From Year-Ago EPS

28%

Revenue Estimate

$128.43 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

14.1%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

4

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Can investors count on growth from Walker & Dunlop earnings?
In recent months, investors have boosted their views on Walker & Dunlop earnings, raising their fourth-quarter estimates by about 5% and kicking up their full-year 2016 projections by almost a dime per share. The stock has lost a lot of ground, however, falling 26% since late October.

Walker & Dunlop's third-quarter results were extremely encouraging to investors. The company posted a 23% rise in revenue to set a new all-time record high, and unexpectedly large net income gains led to Walker & Dunlop posting earnings that topped the consensus forecast by $0.20 per share. Transaction volume surged by more than half, and loan origination volume climbed by almost a third, showing how the company took advantage of favorable conditions in the commercial market. Gains in mortgage banking and servicing fees, combined with cost-containment initiatives, yielded the favorable results that investors had hoped to see. Moreover, the credit quality of Walker & Dunlop's loan portfolio remained strong, and the company reported no delinquencies or write-offs.

The growth that Walker & Dunlop has achieved has come quickly. In January, the company said that its commercial loan servicing portfolio exceeded the $50 billion mark, having risen from $40 billion in just 18 months. CEO Willy Walker noted that even though the growth is impressive, what's even more important is that "the portfolio loans are supported by extremely strong multifamily market fundamentals," and he applauded efforts to ensure minimal disruptions from delinquencies.

Nevertheless, Walker & Dunlop can't afford to stand still. The company has pushed forward with its investment sales business through aggressive recruiting in certain areas. For instance, in the D.C. area, Walker & Dunlop recently hired brokers from rival Cushman & Wakefield to compete more effectively against Cushman, Jones Lang LaSalle, and CBRE Group. By combining brokerage and financing services under one roof, Walker & Dunlop can take a bigger piece of the overall pie and command more respect in the real-estate market.

In the Walker & Dunlop financial report, investors should watch for commentary about what if any impact recent concerns about the economy are having on the commercial real-estate market. So far, the stock market's woes have kept bond rates extremely low, making the anticipated rise in commercial mortgage rates disappear for now. If Walker & Dunlop can take this extra time to prepare itself for the next rising-rate cycle, then it could be able to play a much bigger role in the real-estate financing world both now and when the next big expansion occurs.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walker & Dunlop. The Motley Fool recommends Jones Lang LaSalle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.