Eastman Kodak Co. repoted an 18 percent increase in sales and a 40 percent rise in profits during 1978 compared with 1977.

Kodak said its 1978 net income totaled $902.86 million ($5.59 a share) compared with $643.4 million ($3.99) for 1977. Sales in 1978 totaled $7.01 billion, up from $5.97 billion in 1977.

Kodak reported fourth-quarter profits of 331.42 million ($2.05) compared with $226.1 million ($1.40) during the fourth quarter of fiscal 1977.

In a statement accompanying the earnings report, Walter Fallon, board chairman and chief executive, and Colby H. Chandler, president, said 1978 "by many measures... was the best year in Kodak's long history."

They said growing acceptance of instant cameras and film" was accompanied by "sharply higher demand" for traditional film and cameras.

Kodak said it would be unreasonable to expect as a big growth in profits in 1979 as the company had in 1978.

"Here at home the rate of economic expansion is expected to slow. Aboard, growth should continue at rate comparable to last year," the company said.

Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. reported first-quarter earnings of $34.8 million (60 cents a share), up from $7.4 million (13 cents) reported in the same period a year ago. Sales were $1.2 billion in the three-month period ending Jan. 31 compared with the prior record of $1.06 billion set in the same quarter a year ago.

The strong first quarter followed a $148.3 million loss reported for the past year by the nation's No. tire maker.

A major factor in the loss was establishment of a $234 million reserve fund in the final quarter of last year for a voluntary recall of up to 10 million of Firestone's steel-belted Radial 500 tires.

Deere & Co., a maker of farm and industrial machinery, had a 36 percent gain in earnings in its first quarter ended Jan. 31 to $65.7 million ($1.08 a share) from $48.2 million (80 cents) a year earlier. Sales rose to $910 million from $790 million.

Chairman William A. Hewitt said the gain in profit was achieved in spite of large cost increases and high startup costs on Deere's new line of harvesting combines.

Lockheed Corp. reported 1978 earnings of $64.9 million, up from $55.4 million the year before.

Lockheed Chairman Roy A. Anderson attributed the increase to Lockheed's sale of the Hollywood-Burbank airport to neighboring cities last fall for $18.8 million.

Earnings per share were $4.21, up from $3.71 in $977. Fourth-quarter earnings were $13.9 million (88 cents a share), up from $8 million (49 cents) in the same quarter last year.

Sales rose from $3.35 billion to $3.49 billion for the year and from $883 million to $11.04 billion for the quarter.

Anderson said 1978 earnings were adversely affected by lower production rates for the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and the completion of the S-3A Viking antisubmarine warfare aircraft production program.

He said Lockheed had improved its competitive and financial prosition in 1978, noting that the company had signed the largest amount of new and follow-on business in its history last year.