As would-be deposit dollars continue to flow into the stock market, community banks are turning in record numbers to an alternative funding stream: the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

Last year nearly 500 commercial banks joined the government-sponsored system, boosting membership to more than 6,500. In all, the 12 regional Federal Home Loan banks advanced more than $195 billion to banks and thrifts, 24.7% more than in 1996 and nearly double the total of just five years ago, according to preliminary data from the Federal Housing Finance Board.

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