WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. banks extended a trend toward higher earnings in the fourth quarter of 2013, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Wednesday.
Net earnings have risen for 17 of the past 18 quarters, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Combined net income reached $40.3 billion in the fourth quarter, up $5.8 billion from the fourth quarter a year earlier.
Revenue in two categories, mortgages and trading activity, both dropped in the quarter. Earnings rose largely because banks set aside less in reserves with they use to cushion themselves against loss, the Journal reported.
"The trend of slow but steady improvement that has been under way in the banking industry since 2009 continued to gain ground," FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said in a statement.
He also said banking remained a difficult environment in which to raise profits or revenue.
The number of banks listed as at-risk, the so-called "problem list," dropped for the 11th consecutive quarter to 467, the Journal said.
In 2013, 24 banks failed , including two in the final quarter. In the previous year, 51 banks went under, the FDIC said.