Banks and thrifts owned by women or members of minority groups generally outpaced the industry in earnings growth last year, according to a new report, but profits fell at black-owned institutions.

Net profits of the 180 special-ownership institutions rose 24.2%, to $617.1 million, and their assets rose 11%, to $62 billion.

Banks and thrifts of all kinds earned $68 billion, 15% more than in 1996.

The data, released last week, were compiled by Creative Investment Research Inc., a Washington firm that has been examining institutions owned by women and minorities since 1989.

Chief executive officer William Michael Cunningham attributed the jump to the health of the economy and the increased buying power of ethnic groups such as Asian-Americans and Hispanics.

Profits at Native American-owned banks have also been boosted by the proliferation of casinos on reservations, he said.

Profits rose at financial institutions owned by Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women, as well as those with "multi- ethnic" ownership.

But they fell 15.7% at the 54 black-owned institutions, to $14.6 million.

Creative Investment announced a top-10 list of institutions in the group it studies, ranking them not just by profits, but also by responsiveness to the needs of their communities.

"The question is, are they putting money into the community or are they just buying treasury bonds, which a lot of them do," Mr. Cunningham said.

The top 10 ranged in size from $36 million-asset Advance Federal Savings and Loan, a black-owned thrift in Baltimore, to $3.8 billion-asset International Bank of Commerce, a Hispanic-owned bank in Laredo, Tex.

Three of the 10 are black-owned, three Hispanic-owned, two Asian-owned, and two Native American-owned.

Four are based in Texas; the others are in New York, Maryland, Virginia, Oklahoma, Montana, and California.

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