"Problem banks" in the U.S. banking industry - meaning those at risk of failure - fell for the 11th straight quarter to 467, down from 515 in the third quarter and 47 percent below a recent high of 888 as of March 2011, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That's less than 7 percent of the 6,798 banks and thrifts the FDIC said were operating as of last week.

“Banks continue to put bad loans behind them and overall asset quality is remarkably strong,” American Bankers Association Chief Economist James Chessen said in a statement. "Going forward, problems loans will continue to fall, but at a slower rate."

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