H.F. Ahmanson & Co. hasn't won its battle to acquire rival Great Western Financial, but it has convinced analysts to hike earnings forecasts.

The consensus 1997 earnings-per-share forecast for the California thrift jumped to $3.04 on Monday, up 2.7% from $2.96 a week earlier. It was the biggest such rise in the banking and finance sector, according to First Call Corp., Boston.

The change was prompted by a conference call with Ahmanson chairman Charles Rinehart in which he said that the $2.96 forecast was 5-15% too low.

Mr. Rinehart's talk of strong credit quality and consumer lending was enough to convince some of the 16 brokerages that follow the company to lift their estimates.

Holdouts included five investment banks that are advising in the merger battle and are constrained from changing forecasts, and analyst Todd Pitsinger of Friedman, Billings, Ramsay & Co. who wants to see first quarter results before he changes his $2.95-per-share projection.

Mr. Pitsinger said Ahmanson has had a "long track record" of disappointing analysts. "Their provisions for credit losses tend to be too high and their loan losses somewhat understated," Mr. Pitsinger said.

In trading Wednesday, shares of First Union Corp. rose 87.5 cents to $87.875 after executive vice president Austin A. Adams told the Bank and Financial Analysts Association in New York that the banking company would spend about $42 million to adjust computers for the turn of the century.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank-believed to be the first to publicly estimate the cost of the conversion-plans on spending $12 million this year alone to prepare computer systems to properly recognize the digits "00" as shorthand for 2000, not 1900.

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