Asta Funding Inc., an asset-management company that buys unpaid credit card loans and tries to collect them, today reported a net loss of $7.8 million for the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31. The Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based company reported net income of $13.3 million for the same period a year earlier. Asta reported first-quarter total revenue of $18.4 million, a 46.4% decrease from $34.3 million a year earlier. Net cash collections from consumer receivables acquired for liquidation totaled $42 million for the quarter, down 27.5% from $57.9 million. "Although the collection environment remains challenging, Asta has taken the necessary steps to lower its debt levels as well as maintaining the ability to purchase new portfolios as the opportunities arise," CEO Gary Stern said in a statement. "Pricing has recently become more attractive. However, we will continue to remain cautious during this economic environment and make sure any transactions completed are ones that can meet our internal rates of return," Stern said. Asta spent $1.1 million to purchase charged off consumer receivables with a face value of $47.5 million during the quarter. The company spent $37.5 million to purchase consumer debt with a face value of $1.1 billion during the same period a year earlier.