SAN FRANCISCO - Signaling its persistent credit problems, California Federal Bank on Monday reported a third-quarter loss of $56.8 million, 34.6% worse than a year ago.

The Los Angeles-based thrift on Monday reported a loss that exceeded both its second quarter and year-ago period when losses totaled $42.2 million.

Year-to-date, the company hemorrhaged $91.8 million, 75% higher than the loss posted through the third quarter of 1992.

Consensus Forecast Doubled

While analysts expected California Federal to record red ink in the third quarter, the amount was about twice as large as the consensus forecast.

"This was a big loss, reflecting the continuing deterioration of Southern California," said Charlotte Chamberlain, a Los Angeles-based analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities.

The wider loss at California Federal stemmed partly from a $72.8 million provision for loan-loss reserves, up 129% from a year ago and 130% from the 1992 second quarter.

Nonperforming Assets Dip

Thrift officials said the larger provision included an unspecified amount set aside in preparation for a previously announced auction of $300 million in nonperforming assets.

California Federal's nonperforming assets dipped 2% in the third quarter and represented 7.4% of the thrift's $15.7 billion of assets at the end of September.

But a drop in foreclosed property was partly offset by a rise in nonperforming loans, mainly credits for apartment and office buildings.

Setback on Capital

The latest loss trimmed the thrift's core and risk-based capital to 4.88% and 9.86% respectively, significantly above regulatory minimums. Still, the drop of the core-capital ratio below the important 5% threshold was a setback.

During the quarter, California Federal announced the appointment of veteran banker Edward G. Harshfield, 56, as president and chief executive officer.

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