While the economy in much of the country has been strong, the area of South Texas along the border is still feeling the aftermath of the plunge in value of the Mexican peso 15 months ago.

"The devaluation has kind of lingered, and instability is still in place," said Dennis E. Nixon, chief executive of International Bank of Commerce in Laredo.

Economic uncertainty has led the $2.5 billion-asset bank to postpone plans to open a bank in Monterrey, Mexico. "In total we'd probably have to describe (this as) a recession environment.

While imports into the U.S. jumped during the last year, the flow of exports south - the trade the bank benefits most from - has fallen.

Hit hardest have been U.S. retailers who have seen a steep decline in Mexicans traveling north to shop. "People in Mexico just don't have any money," said Mr. Nixon. "The middle class has been hurt pretty significantly by this devaluation."

But the region's economy has been bolstered, he said, by new factories sprouting up on the Mexican side of the border. "The maquiladora industry has gained new life because of the devaluation and seems to be expanding fairly significantly all along the border," said Mr. Nixon.

Despite the economic slowdown, International Bank of Commerce, the largest Hispanic-owned bank in the U.S., continues to grow. Return on assets for the period ended Sept. 30 was 1.37%; return on equity was 20.87%. It consistently ranks among the nation's top performing minority- owned banks.

Mr. Nixon said International Bank of Commerce has also opened about five new branches in the last year to expand its consumer business.

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