Bank stocks advanced Wednesday after three days of losses, as investors navigated a maze of conflicting signs on the health of the economy and banks' earnings prospects.

"It's not clear who will provide leadership in the group," said Kathy Cole, a bank analyst at Bank One Investment Advisors. "Some days the safe- haven regionals perform well; other days it's the money-centers, and it's unusual for that to happen so often in a month."

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