Operating performance at banks improved a bit in the first quarter from the prior quarter, but not to peak levels, according to Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co., New York.

For 25 money-center and superregional companies, the typical net interest margin fell 3 basis points from to 3.90% from the prior quarter and is now down 30 basis points from the high in late 1992. A 2% jump in interest-earning assets, mostly loans, brought a 1% rise in net interest income.

For the 11th straight quarter, more banks reduced loan-loss reserves (14) than added to reserves (11). But asset quality remained strong, with nonperforming asset ratios under 2% at 22 of 25 banks and below 1% at 10 banks.

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