WASHINGTON - Investors are scouring banks' fourth-quarter earnings reports for health-care-related loan chargeoffs, trying to decide if the long-troubled sector has finally bottomed out.

"Health care is a problem, and it is going to get worse," said Jim Nelson, director of lending and finance at Robert Morris Associates, the trade group for lenders and credit risk managers. "There is some time period - it might be six months from now, it might be 12 months - after which loans to the health-care industry are going to start going bad at a faster pace."

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