Crestar Financial Corp. of Richmond said yesterday it earned $61.1 million ($1.87 per share) in 1990, a 41 percent decline from the $103.8 million ($3.25) earned in 1989.

For the fourth quarter, Crestar's income totaled only $900,000, compared with $27.5 million (86 cents) that it earned in the same period in 1989.

The bank company warned investors earlier in the quarter that its results would be disappointing, reflecting a substantial increase in Crestar's reserve for loan losses.

"The recession hit our regional economy hard during the fourth quarter, putting pressure on both commercial and real estate customers and further exacerbating the situation in our local real estate markets," Crestar Chairman Richard G. Tilghman said, adding that he expects the recession to continue "well into 1991."

Last year, Crestar recognized $76.9 million in losses that will never be recovered and added $131.1 million to its loan-loss reserve to protect against future loan defaults.

Troubled loans rose to $237.2 million at Dec. 31, more than triple the level of problem loans in 1989.

With 263 branches in Maryland, Virginia and the District, Crestar had total assets at year-end of $11.9 billion.

Central Fidelity Banks Inc., reporting its 16th consecutive year of increased earnings, said yesterday its 1990 profit reached $55.7 million ($3.71 per share), up 2.5 percent over the $54.3 million ($3.53) earned in 1989.

Although the annual results at the Richmond-based bank company improved, fourth-quarter profits declined slightly, falling 7.7 percent to $13.2 million (92 cents) from $14.3 million (93 cents) earned in the same quarter in 1989.

Carroll L. Saine, chairman and chief executive, attributed the fourth-quarter performance to a $23.9 million addition to the bank's loan-loss reserve, the cushion that protects against future loan defaults.

Although Central Fidelity's limited portfolio of commercial real estate loans has helped keep the bank insulated from the real estate market's downturn, it did experience a jump in troubled loans in the fourth quarter.

Loans no longer paying interest or already in default jumped to $86.5 million, or 2.4 percent of all loans, compared with $41.4 million, or 1.1 percent, at the end of the third quarter. Central Fidelity said two-thirds of its problem loans were for properties in Northern Virginia, where the real estate market has softened the most.

The large addition to reserves was partially offset by rigorous cost controls that held expenses to a minimum and higher income that Central Fidelity generated from businesses not associated with lending.

Despite the recent increase in problems, Saine said, "Our consistent performance, particularly through a difficult environment for banking, provides evidence of Central Fidelity's stability, soundness and strength."

Assets at Central Fidelity, which operates nearly 200 branches throughout Virginia, grew 15.7 percent in 1990 to $6.1 billion.