CHICAGO - After taking a financial beating related to subprime mortgage market fallout, National City, Ohio's largest bank and one of the nation's top mortgage lenders, announced this week it has hired an advisory firm to consider its "strategic alternatives," including a possible sale.

If acquired by another Ohio bank - such as Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Securities Inc., which is reported to be a top candidate to acquire the bank - the move would create one of the largest banks in the Midwest, and the sixth largest in the nation.

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