SAN FRANCISCO -- First Nationwide Financial Corp. reported a narrowed $7 million loss for the third quarter, compared with a $25 million loss for the same period last year.

In 1993's first nine months, Ford Motor Co.'s thrift unit lost $42 million, a slight improvement from the $48 million loss posted for the comparable period in 1992.

As in the second quarter, the latest loss was due to writedowns on derivative mortgage securities bought as interest rate hedges, First Nationwide said.

The company's main operating unit, First Nationwide Bank, earned $21 million in the third quarter, reversing a $23 million loss last year.

Parent Takes Problem Realty Loans

The improvement reflected lower credit and operating costs. In addition, the thrift has transferred certain problem real estate development loans to its holding company.

First Nationwide Financial Corp. is the nation's fifth-largest thrift company, with 182 branches in eight states. Its total assets of $16.7 billion are down 16% from the year-ago level partly because of branch sales.

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