Banking stocks closed modestly higher Thursday even as persistent fears about the economy weighed on the broader markets.

The KBW Bank Index rose 0.3%, a day after rising sharply on the news that the Federal Reserve would maintain favorable key lending rates.

Thursday's gains were less substantial as the overall markets slumped on reports that durable goods orders had risen less than expected last month and unemployment claims fell less than expected last week. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.13%, and the S&P 500 index, 1.18%.

The banking sector rose slightly as investors continued to digest earnings reports showing that some lenders may have turned the corner on credit quality.

Bank of America Corp. gained 1.18%; JPMorgan Chase & Co., 0.38%; Wells Fargo & Co. Inc., 0.89%, and Citigroup Inc., 4 cents a share, to $3.24.

Among regional banking companies, Fifth Third Bancorp was up 0.66%; Zions Bancorp., 2.11%; Regions Financial Corp., 4.21%; SunTrust Banks Inc., 0.45%, and KeyCorp, 1.68%.

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