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The nation's thrift institutions continued to shrink dramatically in September in preparation for tough new financial standards taking effect next week, the government said.

Assets at the nation's 2,903 thrifts shrank by $15.2 billion, breaking the record set in August of $13.3 billion, the Office of Thrift Supervision said.Meanwhile, a net of $8.9 billion in deposits was withdrawn from thrifts, the most since February, which marked the second-heaviest outflow on record. September was the 16th consecutive month of outflows.

Economists attributed the continuing declines to the industry's efforts to meet new capital standards taking effect Dec. 7. The standards, which require S&Ls to back their lending and investments with more of their owners' money, were required by the S&L bailout bill passed in August.

The thrift office has estimated that about 800 S&Ls will fall short of the new standard and will face closure unless regulators approve their business plan to eventually come into compliance.

Many thrifts have had a tough time raising new capital from private investors and as a result are selling assets.

Economist James Christian of the U.S. League of Savings Institutions said the rapid restructuring would like slow early next year but would continue, at a slower pace, through 1990.

"By the time we get to 1991, we'll just be fine-tuning," he said.

Bert Ely, a private financial institutions analyst in Alexandria, Va., said much of the assets sales have been concentrated in mortgage-backed securities, which are among the most easily sold of thrift holdings. However, that could cause problems down the road for thrifts, which by July 1991, will be required to hold 70 percent of their assets in housing, up from 60 percent currently.

"There is some sense, maybe its more wish than hope, that Congress at some time is going to ease up on the (housing) standards. That's much more likely than Congress easing up on capital requirements so thrifts are working to meet the capital requirements first," Ely said.

Mortgage originations of $15.4 billion in September were down $1.1 billion from a month earlier and were off 34 percent from a year earlier because of the softer real estate market in 1989, the thrift office said.