Representatives of senior citizens groups said yesterday that they had received a sympathetic response from government officials to their petition seeking equality of treatment on interest payment for small savings accounts

Robert L. Gnaizda, attorney for the Gray Panthers, a nationwide organization of senior citizens, said, "I am encouraged that all three bodies are looking seriously at the problem."

The three agencies are the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. They met yesterday at the Federal Reserve, in response to a Gray Panthers petition that charged favored treatment is being given to savings depositors who have a minimum of $10,000.

Under present rules, a 26-week money market certificate, tied to Treasury bill rates, is available to large depositors. This week, such a certificate pays at the annual rate of 10.4 percent. Short-term deposits for less than that amount pay the savings book rates of 5.0 to 5.5 percent.

Alan Rankin, associate general counsel of the Federal Reserve, said after the meeting that all of the agencies agreed that there is a legal basis to take the actions requested by the Gray Panthers, so long as differentials are maintained that keep a slight advantage for savings and loan institutions.

A representative of the U.S. Savings and Loan League appeared at yesterday's session, uninvited, and was allowed to stay. He had no comment during the discussions.

Gnaizda said that the demand in his petition that maximum interest rates be indexed to the rate of inflation was adjusted during yesterday's session to a proposal that interest rates be indexed to market interest rates -- in effect, applying the 26-week certificate principle to all interest rates. He thought the agencies found the altered position more acceptable.

In Gnaizda's judgement, the Fed staff was especially sympathetic to the main thrust of the Gray Panthers petition, and there was some discussion of an immediate lowering of the $1,000 minimum for the 26 week certificate to $500.

It was clear that all the agencies hope that any action can be co-ordinated. But the Fed staff indicated it could have a set of recommendations prepared for the Board within 60 days, or earlier than the FDIC or FHLBB thought they could be ready. C9