Bankers enjoyed a break during third-quarter earnings season as they fielded fewer questions about losses from soured loans and more about what their profits might look like after the financial crisis.

Executives say they were able to talk about topics like the markets their banks serve and their expanding profit margins on lending rather than the still-nasty state of their loan books. Preprovision earnings — gross profit, excluding taxes and the money banks set aside to cover current and future loan losses — is the basis for Wall Street's gauge of bank earnings once loan losses abate.

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