It wasn't so long ago that Wall Street held out Northern Trust Corp. as a fool-proof investment. Propelled by steadily rising fee income, the logic went, Northern should flourish in virtually any banking environment.

But a modest fourth-quarter slowdown at Chicago-based Northern has driven home the point that trust institutions aren't immune to volatility. Some analysts said that lesson, combined with investors' new-found skepticism, could affect Northern's stock price for some time to come.

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