WASHINGTON - The Bank Insurance Fund grew 55% in the third quarter to $10.5 billion. according to Andrew C. Hove Jr., acting chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

That means the fund held 56 cents for every $1 of insured deposits at Sept. 30 - the highest reserve ratio in almost four years.

The fund's health is reflective of the current robust banking environment.

Mr. Hove, who was speaking at the American Bankers Association's annual convention Sunday in San Diego, told reporters that he expects the industry to report record earnings this year. The current record was set in 1992, when banks reported earnings of $32 billion.

In addition to the insurance fund's $10.5 billion, the fund has $3.9 billion in reserve for losses at banks that the FDIC expects to fail.

The FDIC has been steadily whittling down reserves since yearend 1991, when the agency placed $16.4 billion in reserve, sending the fund into the red for the first time in its history. The FDIC started 1993 with $10.8 billion in reserves.

The FDIC also pared its list of problem banks to 500 by the end of the third quarter.

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