Some of the biggest institutional holders of bank stocks were dumping shares in the months before the market downturn.

In the second quarter, as turmoil in Asia deepened and the rate environment worsened, NationsBank Corp. cut bank stock holdings 5.7%, to $5.8 billion; Travelers Group Inc. 4.8%, to $6.5 billion; and American Express 3.1%, to $4.0 billion, a quarterly American Banker survey shows.

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