Executives running some of the country's best banks and savings and loans say the economy's skinny legs are about to stop wobbling.

They spread the good word to about 60 analysts in Washington, who attended a financial services conference held last week by Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.

"The economy is getting stronger and stronger," said Frank Cahouet, chairman and chief executive. of Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank Corp.

"There are some rays of sunshine," said Richard H. Deihl, chairman of H.F. Ahmanson & Co., a $46.8 billion-asset S&L holding company based in Irwindale, Calif.

Their companies are poised to take advantage of any economic upturn - no matter how small -- Mr. Deihl and Mr. Cahouet told analysts. So did executives with Chemical Bank; Countrywide Credit Industries Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; First Union Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; and Banc One Corp., Columbus, Ohio.

William H. Turner, senior executive vice president of Chemical, passed out baseballs imprinted with the Chemical logo to emphasize its aggressive middle-market lending.

"We are very profit-driven," he said. "We get lots of singles and doubles."

Mellon earned $280 million in 1991, and has reported earnings of $176 million for the first six months of 1992. What bothers Mr. Cahouet is middle-market businesses still aren't getting enough credit. He blames it in part on tougher regulators and regulations.

Mr. Deihl says nonperformers are leveling off and profits are rising at the S&L, but the California unemployment rate remains at an awesome 8.8%.

"A drop in unemployment is the key to our turnaround," he said.

What can the government do to help? "Cut taxes 10% instead of 1%," said David S. Loeb, chairman and president of Countrywide.

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