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Bank Earnings Up, But So are Failures & Problem Banks

FDIC-insured banks earn $20 billion in Q4

Feb. 23, 2011

By staff

It was the second-best quarter for bank earnings in nearly four years as institutions increased their mortgage portfolios. Last year's bank failures were the most in 19 years, and the growing number of "problem institutions" suggests a new milestone could be set this year.

Bank-owned loans secured by one- to four-family residences totaled $1.8976 trillion in the fourth quarter, rising from $1.8805 trillion in the previous quarter, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s Quarterly Banking Profile. Holdings were lower, however, than $1.9158 trillion in the final period of the previous year.

Home loans that were at least 30 days past due accounted for 12.28 percent of portfolio loans, improving from 12.53 percent in the third quarter and 12.49 in the last three months of 2009.

Delinquency of between 30 and 89 days on home loans was 2.84 percent in the latest quarter, while the 90-day rate was 9.44 percent.

Another $0.6369 trillion in home-equity lines of credit were owned by the sector, lower than the third quarter's $0.6479 trillion and the fourth-quarter 2009's $0.6616 trillion

HELOC delinquency climbed from 3.05 percent in the third quarter to 3.10 percent. HELOC lates were better, however, than 3.15 percent 12 months prior.

Construction and development holdings fell to $0.3216 trillion from $0.3541 trillion three months earlier and $0.4507 trillion a year earlier.

Delinquency on multifamily loans was 4.84 percent, much better than the 5.64 percent at the end of the prior year.

Fourth-quarter net operating income at banks was $19.8 billion, swinging from a $1.7 billion loss a year earlier and reaching "the second-highest quarterly total reported since second quarter 2007." Earnings in the third-quarter 2010 were $14.5 billion.

"The greatest year-over-year improvement in earnings occurred at the largest banks," the report stated. "But almost two out of every three institutions (62 percent) reported better net income than a year ago."

On an annual basis, earnings swung from a $6.1 billion loss in 2009 to a profit of $81.6 billion.

There were 7,657 FDIC-insured institutions reporting last year, down from 8,012 in 2009. The latest total reflected 197 institutions that were absorbed through mergers during the year and 11 new reporters -- the fewest new reporters ever during the FDIC's 77-year history. The Dec. 31, 2010, total included 6,529 commercial institutions and 1,128 thrifts.

Of the most recent figure, 716 banks and thrifts had a concentration in mortgages.

The report indicated that 884 of the reporting banks were considered "problem institutions," more than the third quarter's 860. A year earlier, the count stood at just 702.

Last year's 157 FDIC-insured bank failures were the most casualties recorded since 1992, when 181 institutions failed. During 2009, there were 140 bank failures.

Federally insured banks and thrifts employed 2,086,357 people in the fourth quarter, more than the 2,042,030 employees reported for the prior quarter and the 2,062,950 headcount in the final three months of 2009.

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