WASHINGTON The nation's top thrift regulator said that thrifts that fail in the next nine months should be handed over to the Resolution Trust Corp.

Under law, the RTC has authority to stop accepting failed thrifls from the Office of Thrift Supervision at yearend. HOwever, the Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board could decide to allow it to take failed thrifts through the end of June.

Although he expects few failures, OTS acting director Jonathan L. Fiechter said last week the RTC should continue accepting failed thrifts for as long as possible. "We ought to take full advantage of that six months," said Mr. Fiechter.

Such a move would mean that taxpayers - instead of the thrift insurance fund - would pick up the tab for any failures.

Mr. Fiechter wants to avoid saddling the fledgling Savings Association Insurance Fund with additional costs because it is years behind the Bank Insurance Fund in building reserves up to the minimum required by law.

When each fund's reserves reach 1.25% of assets insured, insurance premiums may drop substantially from the current 23 cents on the dollar.

Mr. Fiechter said thrifts will face a competitive disadvantage if banks pay far less in deposit insurance premiums. The Bank Insurance Fund could recapitalize as early as mid-1995.

He said the number of problem thrifts was down to 73 with Camel ratings of 4 or 5, totalling $60 billion of assets, down from 83 such thrifts with $74 billion of assets at the end of March. The end of June 1993 showed 153 troubled thrills with $103 billion of assets.

Of the 73 troubled institutions, six are on an internal list of "probable" failure candidates. but Mr. Fiechter said, "I would be surprised if we had more than one or two" failures for the rest of the year. Overall, the 1.612 OTS-supervised thrifts are healthy.

Mr. Fiechter also said that increasing interest rates do not pose the trouble for the industry they have in the past. Thrift executives "have immunized their portfolios against such changes, Mr. Fiechter said, and overall, "The balance sheets are much stronger?'

If anything, thrifts have been too cautious in their use of derivatives to hedge interest-rate risk, he said.

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