BANKING & FINANCE

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Dividend Trend Improves: The number of companies raising cash dividend payments rose to 102 in December from 88 a year earlier. The number of firms omitting dividends entirely fell to 18 from 32. The figures are another sign that corporate profits may be improving, Standard & Poor's Corp. reported. For all of 1991, S&P; said, 1,086 companies raised dividends, down 14% from 1990 and the lowest total since 1971.

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