One sign that California's banking market remains one of the hottest in the country is that three upstart regional banks in the state beat Wall Street's expectations for the fourth quarter and for the full year, fueled by strong loan growth, fee income gains, and stable asset quality.

Profits were exceptionally strong at two banks that cater to the Chinese-American community. UCBH Holdings Inc. of San Francisco, with $2.2 billion of assets, surpassed 1999 estimates by 3 cents a share, and East West Bancorp Inc. of San Marino, with $2.1 billion of assets, beat estimates by 2 cents.

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