WASHINGTON - Thrift industry earnings dipped 6.3%, to $2.09 billion, in the third quarter while rising interest rates continue to threaten future profits, the Office of Thrift Supervision said Thursday.

Average return on assets for the 1,111 thrifts supervised by the agency fell 13% in the third quarter, to 0.98%, from the same period in 1998. The industry's cost of funds increased in the quarter as consumers opted for higher returns offered by competitors. Average variable-rate borrowing costs jumped to 9.4% in the quarter, up from 6.8% in the year-earlier period. The average thrift's deposits-to-assets ratio fell to a record low of 57.2%, from 62.6% in third quarter 1998.

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