A mixed bag of cost savings, acquisitions, divestitures, and lower credit losses boosted the 50 largest banks to greater profitability in 1997.

According to a survey by American Banker, the top 50 banks last year had an average return on equity of 17.68%, up from 16.6% in 1996. Average return on assets was 1.34%, 5 basis points better than in 1996.

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