Despite the sluggish economy, 17 of the nation's top 25 bank holding companies continued to grow in the third quarter according to an American Banker survey.

The average increase in asset size was 1.6% for the 25 companies, compared with 3.45% in the period a year earlier.

J.P. Morgan & Co. led the way, with its assets increasing 9.4% to $117.7 billion. The growth was fueled by the addition of $10.2 billion in trading assets, most likely bonds. One analyst speculated that the move was in anticipation of price appreciation from falling interest rates.

Detroit-based NBD Bancorp was a close second, with its assets increasing 9.3% to $34 billion. NBD's growth came from completing its acquisition of Summcorp, a $2.6 billion banking company in Fort Wayne, Ind.

NBD is now the 17th-largest bank holding company, up from 22nd in the second quarter. Morgan remains fifth-largest.

Strong loan growth in the third quarter gave Nations-Bank's assets a boost. They were up 6.5% to $117.9 billion, keeping the company in fourth place.

The completion of Banc One's acquisition of First Security Corporation of Kentucky, Lexington, increased that Ohio company's assets 5.7% to $51.2 billion.

The addition pushed it ahead of First Interstate Bancorp, making Banc One the ninth-largest bank holding company in the country.

Banc One on the Move

The company says that the completion of other pending acquisitions will add another $24.8 billion in assets by the end of the first quarter of next year. That could move it into the seventh slot.

Chemical Banking Corp. experienced the greatest shrinkage, falling 2.5% to $138.8 billion. The company said it reduced its holding of Treasury securities and other liquid assets during the quarter.

It remains the third-largest bank holding company.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.