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FDIC Reports Bank Earnings, Failures Up « The Washington Independent

This morning, the Federal Deposit Insurance Co. announced that the banks it insures earned $18 billion in the first quarter of 2010, up $12.5 billion from the first quarter of 2009, as money set aside for loan losses decreased 17 percent. The percentage of banks losing money fell to 19 percent, down from 22 percent a year ago.

“There are encouraging signs in the first-quarter numbers,” Sheila Bair, the head of the FDIC, said in a statement. “Industry earnings are up. More banks reported higher earnings, and fewer lost money. … [The $18 billion] is more than three times as much as banks earned a year ago, and it is the best quarterly earnings for the industry in two years.”

That said, the FDIC’s “problem list” of banks rose to 775, up from 702 last quarter, and the assets of these “problem” institutions grew 8 percent. During the first three months of the year, 41 banks failed. These are the worst numbers since 1993.

All in all, the report paints a picture of a banking sector bolstered by low interest rates and government backing, but one in which the haves — mostly bigger banks — are pulling away from the have-nots — smaller and community banks. Those smaller banking institutions with thin capital cushions will continue to face serious hardships due to delinquent loan, foreclosure and other losses.

Additionally, the number of FDIC-backed banks fell below 8,000 for the first time in the agency’s history, as banks failed or merged with one another.

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