SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Despite the economic downturn and its effect on companies' ability to pay back loans, U.S. banks are in a better position to handle the volatility than they were 10 years ago, says Firstar Corp. president Jerry A. Grundhofer.

Mr. Grundhofer is to become president of the new U.S. Bancorp this quarter after the merger of Firstar with U.S. Bancorp, the Minneapolis-based banking giant headed by his brother, John F. "Jack" Grundhofer.

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