DAVOS, SWITZERLAND, JAN. 30 -- A senior Treasury official said today that the first economic reports following the October stock market crash "are hard to read," but that the United States does not "necessarily" face a recession in the coming year.

This carefully hedged prediction by Assistant Treasury Secretary David C. Mulford was made at a World Economic Forum session on the future of economic policy coordination among the major industrial nations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter gave an upbeat assessment of American trade prospects, saying that new data assembled by his office showed that in volume terms, exports in the fourth quarter of 1987 were up 24 percent over the same period of 1986.

Yeutter and Mulford both said that any further decline in the dollar would be counterproductive. Robert Hormats of Goldman Sachs & Co. said any new decline in the dollar would give support to the suggestion last week by New York banker Felix Rohatyn -- which Hormats sharply criticized -- that foreign investment in the United States might have to be restricted.

Mulford said the U.S. gross national product figures released last week showing a strong 4.2 percent annual growth rate in the fourth quarter of 1987 were a good sign, but acknowledged that "the inventory figures were a question mark."

Some economists believe that the sharp growth in inventory buildup, coupled with a 3.8 percent drop in personal spending, may result in a reduction in output, leading to a recession later this year.

Mulford acknowledged that growth this year would lower than expected because of fallout from the stock market collapse, but said, "it's too early to make a call on the exact {GNP} numbers."

He also said it is too early to tell whether U.S. monetary policy should be eased. His comments implied that the Treasury does not go along with last week's broad hint by Beryl W. Sprinkel, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, that the Federal Reserve Board should ease monetary policy.

But West German central bank deputy governor Helmut Schlesinger, focusing on one of the areas of potential disagreement on international economic policies, hinted that there may be a need for higher U.S. interest rates as part of the effort to stabilize the dollar.

Dutch Finance Minister H.O. Ruding, who also is chairman of the International Monetary Fund's Interim Committee, openly called for bigger interest-rate differentials between the United States and its major partners, which could mean higher interest rates in the United States. That, Ruding acknowledged, "is not a pleasant method" of widening interest rate differentials.

In one of many thrusts at the United States, Ruding said, "the United States has become a debtor nation and does not seem to be aware of its {new} position."

Mulford strongly defended the international coordination policy among major nations against recent criticism that the results have been poor or counterproductive. "We take the view that considerable progress has been made in the last 2 to 2 1/2 years," he said.

In introducing a panel on the subject, former Carter administration international economics aide Henry Owen said the policy "hasn't produced happy results." He said that what governments usually mean by coordination is that "they keep on doing what they're doing," while everybody else makes changes.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said here on Thursday that the stock market collapse last October was triggered by suspicion in financial markets "that economic policy makers were divided in their objectives."

Nakasone's point was reflected by the differing views of the coordination process expressed by the panelists, which included representatives of the Big Three powers -- Mulford, Schlesinger and Toyoo Gyohten, Japanese vice minister of finance -- as well as Ruding and the prime minister of Greece, Andreas Papandreou.

Schlesinger in general endorsed the coordination process, but stressed the well-known West German view that it has limits. He emphasized that even if the countries in the Group of Seven -- the United States, West Germany, Japan, France, England, Canada and Italy -- get together and agree on an overall stance, "market forces {also} have to be observed."

Exchange rates cannot be fixed "if the fundamentals {of policies} are in a strong disequilibrium," Schlesinger said. Gyohten agreed, and added that "a heavy burden falls on the shoulders of policy makers."

Since all of the participants are democracies, Gyohten observed, international commitments made at G-7 meetings "must ultimately be supported by millions of voters. None of us can surrender our national sovereignty."

Gyohten nonetheless agreed with Mulford that progress had been made in coordinating policy, and "we are on the right track. ... We can't be too cynical about our own efforts."

But Ruding and Papandreou were highly critical of the process and the results, with Ruding saying, "sometimes I think there is only a G-1," meaning the United States. Ruding, who is also chairman of the Group of Ten -- which includes the Netherlands and other smaller industrial countries -- has long argued that the G-7 is not the appropriate mechanism for global economic management.

Papandreou decried the effort to adjust trade balances by pushing the dollar down. He said that while economic policy coordination is essential, "I would let exchange rates find their own levels."