BAY STREET-Slimmer Canadian bank profits seen as lending slows

Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:29am EST
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* Profit seen rising 7 pct at banks

* Bank of Montreal is first to report on Tuesday

* Housing slowdown, consumer lending to pinch growth

* Five of six banks expected to boost dividends

* Shares of top three banks at or near record highs

By Cameron French

TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) -

Canada's banks made double-digit profit growth look easy last year. But the going got tougher in the first quarter of this fiscal year as a cooling housing market and a low interest-rate environment started to sap the profits the Big Six earn on loans.

Earnings are still growing, but modestly now and probably not fast enough for bank shares to maintain the momentum that pushed some of them to record highs, especially with U.S. banks becoming more appealing to investors.   Continued...