Battered by rising credit costs and administrative expenses, the nation's largest thrift, H.F. Ahmanson & Co., reported earnings that were sharply below expectations.

For the fourth quarter, the Irwindale, Calif., company reported earnings of $60.7 million, or 40 cents a common share - 10 cents lower than analysts had expected. For 1995, earnings were $216.2 million, down 9% from profits in the preceding year.

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