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Losses of $11.7 million were reported in the first quarter by Utah savings and loans, with only four of 13 institutions showing a profit, according to Sheshunhoff Information Services, based in Austin, Texas.

Nationally, says the firm, the industry lost $3.7 billion, the largest quarterly dive in S&L history.In Utah, three S&Ls account for most of the profit deficit, with losses ranging from nearly $1 million to $1.5 million per month. As a whole, the state's industry returned a minus 0.65 percent on average assets.

"There's no question about it, there is trouble out there," said Paul A. Neuenschwander, president of the Utah League of Savings Institutions.

"All businesses go through cycles. In a good economy people make profits, in a bad economy people lose money," he said.

The state's biggest loser in the first three months of this year was Ogden's MountainWest Savings & Loan, which lost $4.7 million, according to Sheshunhoff figures.

Deseret Federal Savings & Loan of Salt Lake City lost $3.5 million, while Salt Lake-based American Savings lost $2.9 million.

Buyers for all three of the troubled S&Ls are being courted by Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. officials, with MountainWest and American being offered as part of a 21-institution "quick-sale" offering made in June by the regulators.

Deseret Federal is likewise being sold. Company officials say a buyer has been located and consummation of the deal is imminent.

While American, with assets of $2.1 billion, is generally seen as a viable acquisition candidate, MountainWest's situation is complicated by the existence of a federal lawsuit filed last month involving the S&L's parent company.

First Federal Savings & Loan of Logan also showed a net loss in the first quarter but has been acquired by FirstFed America of Honolulu and has been recapitalized.

Another unprofitable institution, Home Savings and Loan of Salt Lake

City, is also selling its assets.