Countrywide Credit Industries said its pretax profit margin in mortgage servicing was dramatically wider in the latest quarter than a year earlier.

The margin was 23.6 basis points in the quarter that ended Feb. 28, the fourth of Countrywide's fiscal year. It was only 8 points a year before.

Countrywide, based in Pasadena, Calif., said the improvement mainly reflected reduced amortization of the servicing asset, because of lower prepayments and reduced prepayment expectations.

The company said its servicing portfolio increased to $117.6 billion by March 31, 35% more than a year before.

The figure represented "a monthly increase of almost $5 billion," said David S. Loeb, chairman.

"Bulk acquisitions eclipsed current-month production and amounted to $3 billion," he said. "Prepayments increased to $501 million during the month, an annualized rate of 5%, reflecting a comparatively higher number of business days in March and ... seasonal trends.

"The company achieved another important milestone during March, as we now serve more than one million homeowners in our servicing portfolio."

Mr. Loeb also said production was improving, with fundings increasing by almost $500 million over the February level, at $2.1 billion. "More than $300 million of this increase came from the consumer markets and wholesale divisions, which generally have higher margins," he said.

"In addition, average daily applications grew for the third consecutive month and reached $153 million. This represents a 13% improvement over the prior month and provides further evidence of the effectiveness of our new business development efforts.

"The pipeline of loans in process, a leading indicator of future volume, is again approaching $3.9 billion, in spite of the strong fundings in March. Brisk production activity and healthy servicing earnings combined with an improving competitive landscape should provide the company with substantial opportunities in fiscal 1996."

The company funded $2.1 billion of mortgage loans in March 1995, against $4 billion in March 1994. Its pipeline of loans in process totaled $3.9 billion, compared with $7.1 billion on March 31, 1994.

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