WASHINGTON - Thrift industry assets may decline in the fourth quarter for the first time since 1997 as Bank of America Corp. shifts $27.6 billion of assets from its thrift to a banking subsidiary.Two more thrift charters will be turned in during the first quarter, shifting another $40 billion out of the industry, Office of Thrift Supervision Director Ellen Seidman said last week.

During a press conference to announce the industry's third-quarter earnings, Ms. Seidman said the Charlotte, N.C., banking company recently closed Bank of America FSB in Portland, Ore. Ms. Seidman said the agency expects Dime Bancorp. to shift $22 billion of assets to a bank charter in the first quarter, while ABN Amro North America Inc. takes $18 billion of assets out of the industry.

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