For the biggest banks in the country, M&A has been as cold as Chicago in January. But U.S. Bancorp's (USB) latest move has the rest of the industry watching the thermometer.

The Minneapolis bank's $315 million deal to acquire 94 branches in Chicago from the U.S. arm of Royal Bank of Scotland would give it more heft in Chicago, raising its deposit share there from 12th to at least 9th. Potentially more important is whether it will ease the way for more, and bigger, acquisitions by large banks.

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