According to the FDIC’s Second Quarter 2010 Quarterly Banking Profile, which the agency released on August 31, 2010, aggregate indicators of banking institutions’ financial health are improving, but at the same time the number of "problem institutions" also continues to increase. The FDIC’s August 31, 2010 press release about the Quarterly Banking Profile can be found here.


The positive news is that the industry’s 2Q10 earnings of $21.6 billion are the highest since the third quarter of 2008. Almost two-thirds of the banks reported higher year-over-year quarterly net income. However, 20 percent of institutions did report quarterly net losses (compared to 29 percent 2Q09).


The quarterly report also reflects that provisions for loan losses, while "still high by historic standards," represented the smallest total since the first quarter of 2008. Fewer borrowers are falling behind on their loan payments. With respect to just about every type of loan, troubled loans declined for the first time in more than four years. The only exception was commercial real estate loans, which continued to show increased weakness.


Despite this relatively good news, the number of problem institutions increased in the second quarter, to 829, up about 7% from the 775 problem institutions at the end of 1Q10, up 18% from the 702 problem institutions at the end of 2009, and up almost 100% from the 416 at June 30, 2009. (The FDIC defines a "problem institution" as those it rates as "4" or a "5" on its one-to-five scale of rating banks’ financial and operating criteria. The FDIC does not disclose the names of the problem institutions.)


The number of problem institutions is the highest since March 31, 1993, when there were 928.


To put the latest number of problem institutions into perspective, at the end of the second quarter, there were a total of 7,830 insured institutions. So the 829 problem banks represent about 10.6% of all insured institutions.


Or to put it a different way, one out of every ten banks in the United States is a problem institution. (And that’s after the 283 banks that have failed since January 1, 2008 have been taken out of the equation).


Though the number of problem institutions increased in the quarter, the assets associated with these banks did decrease. The 829 problem institutions at the end of the second quarter represented assets of about $403 billion, down slightly from the $431 billion that represented by the 775 problem institutions at the end of 1Q10.


To put the assets associated with the problem institutions into perspective, the collective assets of all insured institutions totals $13.2 trillion. The $403 billion in assets associated with the problem institutions represents about 3.1% of the industry’s total assets.


One other sign that the banking industry as a whole may not yet be in the clear, notwithstanding the relatively positive industry news overall, is that during the second quarter and for the first time in the 38 years for which data is available, there were no new insured institutions.


Since January 1, 2008, 283 banks have failed, 118 in 2010 alone. But even with the growing numbers of failures (each one of which presumably reduces the number of problem institutions by a count of one), the number of problem institutions continues to grow. The likelihood seems to be that the number of failed banks will continue to grow for some time to come.


Eric Dash’s August 31, 2010 New York Times article about the report can be found here.


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