Savings and loan associations lost market share last year rather than taking it from either mortgage companies or commercial banks, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Originations by thrifts fell 31% in the depressed 1994 mortgage market, as measured against the previous year. Mortgage company originations declined only 22%, and commercial bank volume was down 23% in 1994.

Mortgage companies, which did better than thrifts during the refinancing boom, continued to benefit from the tail end of the surge in the first quarter of 1994.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, made popular by thrifts, accounted for fewer than half of all loans originated in the first three quarters of the year. The ARM surge in the fourth quarter was not enough to bring up the annual average for thrifts.

"The first quarter of 1994 was the biggest quarter on record, and it was big for mortgage companies," said David Lereah, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

He said mortgage companies had about 57% of all originations in the first quarter and about 53% in the second.

"If the survey just focused on the second half of the year, we would have a completely different story," Mr. Lereah said.

However, in California, the country's largest housing market, thrifts gained market share in 1994, according to TRW Redi Property Data.

California thrifts' market share went from 17% in 1993 to 26% in 1994. According to TRW, thrifts benefited from borrowers' increasing preference for ARMs and from S&Ls' lesser reliance on the refinancing market for new business.

Purchase loans became increasingly important as the year went on; 45% of business for California thrifts was home purchases. For commercial banks and mortgage companies, only 30% of total volume was purchases, with the balance coming from refinancings, second mortgages, and home equity loans.

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