PASADENA, Calif. -- Countrywide Credit Industries Inc., the nation's largest residential mortgage lender and servicer, announced that net earnings for the third fiscal quarter, which ended Nov. 30, fell to $16.2 million, or 18 cents a share, from $43 million, or 46 cents a share, a year earlier.

Countrywide's board declared a cash dividend of 8 cents a share for the third fiscal quarter, payable Jan. 23, 1995 to shareholders of record of Dec. 27, 1994.

"Margin improvement and portfolio growth trends continued in Countrywide's servicing segment during the third fiscal quarter," said David S. Loeb, chairman.

Higher interest rates resulted in the prepayment rate declining below 7%, a level last experienced by the company during fiscal 1991.

"The production segment enjoyed strong application and funding activity during the third quarter," Mr. Loeb continued. "Home purchase loans exceeded $5 billion for the quarter and established an all-time company record.

In addition, adjustable-rate mortgages accounted for 45% third-quarter volume as penetration of this important market continued."

Mr. Loeb added, however, that production margins declined as intense price competition continued.

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