Further consolidation of the nation's banking industry is virtually unavoidable because the economic rationale for it remains so strong, according to H. Rodgin Cohen, a lawyer who specializes in banking issues and has handled mergers and acquisitions for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Cohen, a partner in the New York firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, said he expects a resumption of major consolidation activity this year after last year's lull, although he doesn't think it will match the huge volume of 1995.

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