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US bank earnings rise 17 pct as loan losses fall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. banks' earnings rose 17 percent in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, as losses on loans fell to a seven-year low and banks set aside less to cover losses as well as legal costs.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported Wednesday that the banking industry earned $40.3 billion in the final quarter of 2013, up from $34.4 billion in the same period in 2012.

For all of 2013, bank earnings increased 9.6 percent to what the agency calls a record annual level of $154.7 billion.

The data provides fresh evidence of the banking industry's sustained recovery more than five years after the financial crisis struck. Still, the FDIC said banks continue to have difficulty increasing revenues, and are relying on setting aside less for loan losses to boost earnings.

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