While showing signs of life, the still-fragile banking industry — and the U.S. economy — face a critical test as companies head into earnings season.

Banks announcing first-quarter earnings can expect extraordinary scrutiny from investors and government officials alike, with any letdown threatening to throw the sector, which has rallied of late, into another tailspin. That, in turn, could have grave repercussions not only for the industry, but for the country as a whole.

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