The return of bank profitability, coupled with some of the provisions of the federal stimulus, coaxed banks to buy state and local government debt in the first half.

Banks beefed up their municipal holdings by 2.7% in the first six months of 2010, according to Highline Data. The industry owns $162.2 billion of municipals, based on cost, compared with $158 billion at the end of the year.

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