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

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