The steady climb in U.S. bank profitability, a constant through the 1990s, isn't letting up.

The 49 largest banking companies averaged a 1.34% return on assets in the second quarter, up from 1.23% a year earlier, according to American Banker's latest survey. (See tables beginning on page 6.) That performance measurement has been rising steadily since the 0.61% registered at the end of 1990.

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