After years of prosperity fueled by uninterrupted economic growth, many lenders are now preparing for a reversal of fortune.

Showing a surprisingly pessimistic outlook, more than two out of three small to midsize lenders expect loan losses, bankruptcies, and interest rates to rise next year, according to a fourth-quarter survey. Hardest hit, bankers said, would be health-care companies, start-ups, agriculture, and retail companies. As a result those industries were named the "least attractive" for lending in the new year, according to the survey by the Philadelphia consulting firm Phoenix Management Services Inc.

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