For the first time in years, there is some optimism about community banks' results ahead of the quarterly reporting season.

Analysts said they finally have reason to believe that credit quality could be getting better as many banks restructured balance sheets in 2010. The research team at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods has estimated that nonperforming assets at small and midsize banks fell 0.7% in the fourth quarter from the third quarter.

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