Several large thrifts have reported solid 1995 earnings in the last week despite a rise in their short-term funding costs.
Net interest income - largely interest on mortgage loans and securities, was either up slightly or down, reflecting a drop in margins.
The gap was made up in a variety of ways - expense reductions, reduced provisions for loan losses, and higher fee income.
An exception was Golden West Financial Corp., Oakland, Calif., which on Monday reported a slight increase in net interest income and net interest margin.
Loan volumes fell at the large California thrifts, which specialize in adjustable-rate loans. Consumers turned increasingly to fixed-rate loans in the second half of 1995, and such thrifts as Standard Federal Bancorp., Troy, Mich., which do a substantial amount of fixed-rate business, saw larger loan volumes.
At $44.6 billion-asset Great Western Financial Corp., Chatsworth, Calif., earnings for 1995 were $261 million, up 4% from the level the year before.
John F. Maher, president and chief executive, attributed the gain to improving margins and to growth in fee and commission income in the fourth quarter.
Real estate loan volume was down to $7.3 billion in 1995, from $7.9 billion in 1994 - reflecting the weak market for adjustable-rate mortgages.
The thrift made some headway in cracking the fixed-rate loan market, with 17% of new loan originations carrying fixed rates, against 12% in 1994.
Net interest income was $1.30 billion in 1995, down from $1.32 billion in 1994. The interest spread was 3.0% in 1995, down from 3.5%.
At Washington Mutual Inc., Seattle, earnings for 1995 were $190.6 million, up almost 11% from the year before. Assets at the thrift grew to $21.6 billion.
"During 1995, assets increased and earnings improved in every successive quarter," said Kerry Killinger, chief executive, in a prepared statement.
Mr. Killinger attributed the gains to strong lending activity, efficient operations, and the gain of 84,000 new households as customers through acquisitions and aggressive marketing.
Residential loan originations totaled $2.3 billion, up from $2.0 billion the year before. Net interest income was $577.6 million, up slightly from $571.2 million. Net interest margin was 3.05%, compared with 3.60% for 1994.
The thrift has revised its five-year target for return on assets to 1.2%, up from the previous goal of 1%, and it's shooting for an 18% return on equity instead of 15%.
In 1995, return on assets was 0.96% and return on equity was 13.28%.
At $13.2 billion-asset Standard Federal Bancorp., Troy, Mich., net income was $119.5 million in 1995, up slightly from $119 million. Operating earnings were actually down year to year, at $174.1 million in 1995, against $179.6 million a year earlier.
The thrift attributed the decline to higher funding costs and an increase in the amortization of mortgage loan servicing rights.
Reaping the fruit of aggressive acquisitions, Standard Federal made a record $7.5 billion of single-family loans in 1995, up from $4.4 billion in the preceding year.
Of total loans originated, 32% were 30-year fixed rate, 14% were 15-year fixed, and 53% were adjustable-rate or balloon.
Of loans added to its portfolio, 29% were 30-year and 15-year fixed rate. Joseph Krul, chief financial officer, said these additions are in line with the current mix of the portfolio, which is 60% adjustable and balloon, and 40% 30-year and 15-year fixed rate.
Compared with the California thrifts, Standard Federal's portfolio has a far larger fixed-rate component. Mr. Krul attributed that to the relative difficulty of making ARMs in housing markets outside California.
Net interest margin was 2.64% in 1995, compared with 3.11% in 1994.
At Golden West, net earnings were $234.5 million, up 1.8%. Because of stock repurchases, per-share earnings increased more substantially, rising 8%. Net interest income was $722.8 million, up 0.2% from 1994. Net interest margin rose from 1.81% in 1994, to 2.06% in 1995.
Mortgage originations were $5.9 billion, down from $6.6 billion in 1994.