Ford Motor Co. rolled up profits of more than $1 billion in 1977 for the first time in its history on record sales, the company announced yesterday.

The company posted earnings of $1.7 billion on sales of $37.8 billion, a 31 percent jump in worldwide sales from its 1976 total.

The results compare with 1976 profits of $983 million on sales of $28.8 billion. Ford is the world's second largest auto maker, after General Motors Corp.

Chairman Henry Ford II said the company also set records in capital spending, employment and total labor costs in 1977.

Corporate profits represented earnings of $14.16 a share last year compared with $8.36 in 1976. Last year's per-share earnings reflect a five-for-four stock split that became effective on May 24, 1977.

Ford is the second U.S. auto maker to report a record financial performance in 1977. General Motors Corp. earned $3.3 billion on sales of $54.9 billion.

Ford also set records for the fourth quarter, with net income of $393 million ($3.32 a share) on sales of $10.1 billion. That compares with earnings of $171 million ($1.45) and sales of $7.2 billion a year earlier, when sales were depressed by a nationwide United Auto Workers strike.

The company's record performance was expected by Wall Street, with the final results close to analysts' forecasts. "It was a lead-pipe cinch," said one research analyst.

Chairman Ford termed the earnings "impressive," but cautioned that the profits "must be evaluated from the perspective of the effects of inflation, spending requirements that lie ahead and the cyclical nature of the automobile business.

"Substantial earnings are an absolute necessity for our continued success," Ford said. "The company's earnings in 1977 were sufficient for normal business demands . . ."

The chairman said "it is almost certain that some less profitable years lie ahead" because of capital spending forced by government regulations.

Ford estimated it would have to spend $15 billion to $20 billion through the 1985 model year to develop smaller, more-fuel-efficient safer and cleaner cars.

Capital spending in 1977 was $1.8 billion, a 67 percent jump from the previous year. Ford said about three-fourths of the outlay was in North America, "primarily" to comply with government regulations.

Aetna Life and Casualty yesterday reported increased profits in all major areas of its business last year.

The insuror is the nation's largest diversified financial company.

Unaudited operating earnings were $417.9 million ($7.76 a share last year compared with $210 million ($3.91) last year after a $49 million one-time charge in the fourth quarter relating to the dissolving of the Kaiser Aetna Real Estate Partnership.

Fourth-quarter operating earnings were $105.5 million ($1.96) last year compared with $37.1 million (69 cents) in the fourth quarter of 1976.

Revenue for 1977 was 14 percent higher than in 1976 at $8.1 billion, premium income was 12 percent higher at $6.8 billion and investment income was 24 percent higher at $1.3 billion.

International Harvester, a giant manufacturer of trucks and farm vehicles, yesterday said its profits fell 26 percent in the three months ended Jan. 31, due largely to weakness of the U.S. dollar.

The company said translation of foreign currency into dollars reduced profits by $13.4 million (r6 cents a share) in the fiscal first quarter.

Profits totalled $18.7 million (60 profits by $13.4 million (46 cents a in the same quarter a year ago.

R. J. Reynolds Industries Inc. yesterday said its earnings and sales increased last year to record levels.

Net income was $423.5 million ($8.20 share fully diluted) last year compared with $353.2 million ($6.89) in 1976.The sales increase was to $6.363 billion from $5.754 billion.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to $131.9 million ($2.55) from $90.2 million ($1.74) a year earlier, but sales fell from $1.587 billion in the 1976 quarter to $1.52 billion.

Results for the latest quarter reflect a $55.1 million nonrecurring gain relating ro Kuwait's nationalization of Reynolds' petroleum operations and an estimated 50-cent-a-share earnings reduction from a two'month long-shoremen's strike.

COLGATE-Palmolive Co. had a $326 million increase in sales in 1977 and earnings rose to $2.07 a share from $1.95.

Net income was $160.52 million on sales of $3.83 billion against $149.25 million on sales of $3.51 billion in 1976.

Fourth quarter profits were $38.89 million (50 cents a share) on sales of $992.69 million compared with $37.91 million (49 cents) a year earlier on sales of $876.07 million.

At the same time, sales dipped slightly to $1.19 billion from $1.21 billion.Worldwide sales of trucks accounted for almost half of all revenues, the company said.

Chairman David R. Foster said fourth-quarter profits were slashed 7 cents a share by losses on foreign currency translations. Allegheny Ludlum Industries Inc. reported yesterday that its profits dipped 16.5 percent last year despite record sales of $1 billion.

The diversified products manufacturer earned $25.4 million ($2.53 a share) on sales of $1 billion for the year compared with $30.7 million ($3.41) on revenues of $888.9 million in 1976.

Allegheny Ludlum is the parent firm of several companies, the largest of which is Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp. The company does not report separate earnings for its steel-making operation.

Fourth-quarter earnings for the parent firm were $11.2 million, more than double profits in the same quarter of 1976.

The 1477 figure for the final three months equalled $1.19 a share on record sales of $281.7 million. That compared with earnings in 1976 of $5 million (48 cents on sales of $236 million.