BOSTON - Thrift executives meeting for their annual convention this week remained upbeat about the industry's financial health and future even as Congress debated whether to merge it out of existence.

With most small thrifts - especially those still mostly in mortgage lending - reporting record earnings, high capital levels, and solid asset quality, thrift officials at the conference that opened here Monday said they were ready to focus on the business of banking regardless of whether lawmakers merge the bank and thrift charters.

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