Banks Take First Quarterly Loss Since 1990

A rough three months for the nation's banking industry.

By SHARE

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Thursday reported that the nation's banking industry suffered its first quarterly loss in nearly two decades during the last three months of 2008.

Here are the ugly details:

Commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported a net loss of $26.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, a decline of $27.8 billion from the $575 million that the industry earned in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarterly loss since 1990. Rising loan-loss provisions, losses from trading activities and goodwill write-downs all contributed to the quarterly net loss as banks continue to repair their balance sheets in order to return to profitability in future periods.

More than two-thirds of all insured institutions were profitable in the fourth quarter, but their earnings were outweighed by large losses at a number of big banks. Total deposits increased by $307.9 billion (3.5 percent), the largest percentage increase in 10 years, with deposits in domestic offices registering a $274.1 billion (3.8 percent) increase. And at year-end, nearly 98 percent of all insured institutions, representing almost 99 percent of industry assets, met or exceeded the highest regulatory capital standards.

"Public confidence in the banking system and deposit insurance is demonstrated by the increase in domestic deposits during the fourth quarter," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said. "Clearly, people see an FDIC-insured account as a safe haven for their money in difficult times."

For all of 2008, insured institutions earned $16.1 billion, a decline of 83.9 percent from 2007 and the lowest annual total since 1990. Twelve FDIC-insured institutions failed during the fourth quarter and one banking organization received assistance. During the year, a total of 25 insured institutions failed. The FDIC's "Problem List" grew during the quarter from 171 to 252 institutions, the largest number since the middle of 1995. Total assets of problem institutions increased from $115.6 billion to $159 billion.

In its latest release, the FDIC cited deteriorating asset quality as the primary reason for the drop in industry profits. Loan-loss provisions totaled $69.3 billion in the fourth quarter, a 115.7 percent increase from the same quarter in 2007. In addition, the industry reported $15.8 billion in expenses for write-downs of goodwill (which do not affect regulatory capital levels), $9.2 billion in trading losses and $8.1 billion in realized losses on securities and other assets.

See the full release here.