DETROIT, OCT. 30 -- Losses in normally profitable overseas operations contributed largely to a 78.7 percent drop in Ford Motor Co.'s third-quarter earnings, announced today.

The decline at the No. 2 automaker was much steeper than Wall Street analysts had expected.

Ford said it made $101.7 million (22 cents a share) during the July-September period this year. That's down from $477.1 million, or $1.03 a share, in the third quarter last year.

The earnings decline would have been bigger without one-time accounting changes that boosted this year's figures by $86.9 million -- $66.9 million in the United States and $20 million overseas.

Ford stock finished down $2, at $27.62 1/2 per share, on the New York Stock Exchange.

No. 3 Chrysler Corp. reported a $214 million loss Monday -- the automaker's largest operational loss since the first quarter of 1981, when it was recovering from near bankruptcy.

General Motors Corp., the nation's biggest automaker, planned to release third-quarter earnings Wednesday.

Like Ford, GM's earnings were expected to be hurt by overseas profit declines.

"My impression in Europe is the whole European market turned down in the third quarter," said auto analyst Mary Anne Sudol of Fitch Investors Service Inc. of New York.

"Ford relies a lot on the United Kingdom {sales}, which is down 12.5 percent for the first nine months."

She said Ford held about 25 percent of the British market, down from 30 percent a few years ago.

Ford said it lost $89 million on its overseas automotive business, which in the past has helped carry less profitable North American operations. During the third quarter last year, Ford's overseas operations earned $324 million.

The company said it made $50 million on its U.S. automotive operations, but that was offset by the accounting change for a net loss of $17 million.