News Summary: US 4Q bank profits up 37 pct.

The Associated Press

BANK PROFITS UP: Profits at U.S. banks jumped nearly 37 percent for the October-December period, reaching the highest level for a fourth quarter in six years as banks continued to step up lending.

WIDE EARNINGS IMPROVEMENT: Banks earned $34.7 billion in the last three months of 2012, up from $25.4 billion a year earlier. Sixty percent of banks reported improved earnings from the fourth quarter of 2011, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said.

FEWER "PROBLEM" BANKS: The number of banks on the FDIC's "problem" list fell in the fourth quarter to 651 from 694. Banks had lower losses on loans and set aside almost 25 percent less to cover potential losses than in the final quarter of 2011.