The market value of the nation's 100 largest banking companies soared 52.7% last year, capping an extraordinary half-decade of growth in value for the industry's leaders.
Reflecting 1995's running of the bulls on Wall Street, the market capitalization of the top 100 expanded to just under $400 billion - $399.8 billion, to be exact - by yearend.
Indeed, the 100 largest banks added almost as much market value last year - $138 billion - as their total value at yearend 1989, $139.4 billion.
"1995 was the best of all worlds for banks," said Carole S. Berger, senior banking analyst at Salomon Brothers Inc., New York. "We had the perfect economy: slowing but growing, with low inflation."
This year has begun far less favorably. The Standard & Poor's bank index is down 8% so far, and Ms. Berger, along with other analysts, doubts that banks can come close to an encore of last year's impressive performance.
"So far this year the market is from Missouri," said Anthony Davis, regional bank analyst at Dean Witter Reynolds, New York. "With credit quality and economic concerns, it's very much in a show-me state of mind about banks."
In fact, the slowdown for banks actually began earlier. The fourth quarter's 4.4% gain in market value for the top 100 banks was the smallest of the year, dwarfed by the third quarter's 15.2%.
Citicorp, the bank stock with the largest capitalization, actually lost 5% in market value during the quarter. Its yearend market capitalization was about $28.6 billion, down from $30 billion on Sept. 30.
But the big New York banking company still enjoyed a 75% gain in market value for the year, and stayed a comfortable distance in front of No. 2, BankAmerica Corp., whose yearend market value was just under $24 billion.
And Citicorp may widen its lead. Among the largest banks, it is the top pick of Ms. Berger and several other analysts, including Robert B. Albertson of Goldman, Sachs & Co., to outperform the market.
Among the top 100, First Chicago NBD Corp. was the top gainer in market value for the year, up 195%, as well as for the fourth quarter, up 107%. The jump reflects the merger of the two venerable midwestern banking companies.
First Chicago NBD's market capitalization was $12.6 billion, making it seventh largest among the nation's banks in value on Wall Street.
Not surprisingly, mergers and prospective mergers prompted many big gains in market value last year.
The second-largest gainer in the fourth quarter, up 35.5%, and sixth- largest for the year, up 107%, was First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles, which First Bank System Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. are pursuing with acquisition bids. Its yearend value was $10.3 billion.
Reflecting the credit quality concerns at the end of the year, the top loser in market value was MBNA Corp., the credit card issuer, down 11% to just under $5.5 billion. But for the year, MBNA was up nearly 58% in capitalization.
The big loser for the year, reflecting the spinoff of its card subsidiary, was Signet Banking Corp., down 16% to $1.4 billion.
In a more accurate reflection of how strong last year was, the second- biggest loss among the top 100 banks was a mere 1.8%, by Valley National Bancorp. of Wayne, N.J., to $894 million.
The smallest 1995 gain - 0.12%, to $707.5 million - was posted by Keystone Financial Inc., Harrisburg, Pa.