Rising interest rates took their toll, as Golden West Financial Corp. on Monday reported its second straight year of declining earnings.

The $30.6 billion-asset thrift, based in Oakland, said fourth-quarter net income was $47 million, or 79 cents a share, a 44% drop from the year- earlier period.

Full-year earnings of $230 million suffered a 16% decline over 1993.

Both full-year and fourth-quarter earnings fell below Wall Street expectations.

"This is the worst quarter since the fourth quarter of 1990," when the thrift earned $42.1 million, said Joseph Jolson, an analyst at Montgomery Securities.

Analysts are lowering their expectations for Golden West's performance over the next two years.

Thomas O'Donnell at Smith Barney is lowering his 1995 estimate by 5 cents to $3.35 per share and his 1996 estimate by 20 cents to $4 per share.

But Golden West's chairman and chief executive, Marion O. Sandler, said the most recent results "reflected the normal impact of rising interest rates, with the cost of our deposits and borrowings rising somewhat more rapidly than the yield on our assets."

Loan volume was up 11% at the end of 1994 to $28.6 billion, but analysts said the bank reduced its lending rates to compete in the heady California market.

Consequently, net interest margin declined to about 1.81% for the full year, down from 2.43% in 1993.

"Right now, clearly, the margin is going to suffer. If the Fed (Federal Reserve Board) raises rates again at the end of January, margin compression will probably extend into the end of 1995," said Richard Strauss, an analyst with Goldman Sachs & Co.

In addition to interest rates, earnings declined by $6 million, or 6 cents a share, because of unexpected one-time expenses, including tax adjustments, the January sale of $130 million in deposits, and the selling of obsolete computer equipment in its operations center in California.

These costs hurt the bank's noninterest income, which declined 78% for full-year 1994 to $4.8 million, Mr. O'Donnell said.

Return on average assets dropped to 0.61% at the end of 1994 from 95% in 1993.

The bank also reported a decline in earnings last year, of 3.3%.

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