WASHINGTON — Mortgages at the nation's largest financial institutions continued to improve for the fifth consecutive quarter at the end of last year, an indication that 2013 was a steadier year for mortgage portfolios than the quakes seen following the housing crisis.

Delinquencies and foreclosures declined in the fourth quarter for the largest financial institutions, which hold nearly half of the outstanding first-lien mortgages in the country, according to the quarterly Mortgage Metrics report released Thursday by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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