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DIGEST

FDIC says number of 'problem' banks is growing

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Friday, May 21, 2010

FINANCE

FDIC: Number of 'problem' banks increasing

The number of troubled banks kept growing last quarter even as the industry as a whole had its best quarter in two years. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Thursday that the number of banks on its confidential "problem" list grew to 775 in the January-March period from 702 in the previous quarter.

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"The banking system still has many problems to work through, and we cannot ignore the possibility of more financial market volatility," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair acknowledged. But she added: "The trends continue to move in the right direction." The largest banks showed the most improvement, though a majority of institutions posted gains in net income.

Banks overall posted net income of $18 billion, up from $5.6 billion in the same quarter a year earlier.

In another sign of health, the FDIC's deposit insurance fund, which fell into the red last fall, posted its first improvement in two years. Its deficit shrank by $145 million to $20.7 billion.

-- Associated Press

TELECOM

Wireless industry not competitive, FCC says

The Federal Communications Commission said concentration is rising among U.S. cellphone providers, a conclusion that AT&T, the nation's second-biggest wireless company, said may lead to more regulation.

In its annual report, the agency did not conclude that the industry was competitive, the first time it omitted such a finding since 2002.

"The FCC's decision is a dramatic break from years of solid precedent," Robert Quinn, AT&T senior vice president of federal regulatory, said in an e-mailed statement. "This seems intended to justify more regulation in a market where it is clear beyond doubt that regulation is simply unwarranted."

The FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, is increasing scrutiny of wireless carriers for actions such as exclusive contracts with handset makers and fees that may thwart competition. The report sparked debate among commissioners before they approved the conclusions 5 to 0, with the two agency Republicans voting to "concur" to show their displeasure.

-- Bloomberg News

AUTOS

Toyota partners with start-up on electric cars

Toyota and Tesla Motors announced a partnership on Thursday to develop and build electric cars at a recently shuttered auto plant in California. Toyota said it plans to invest $50 million in Tesla when the company begins selling stock to the public. Tesla said it will purchase the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory, known as Nummi, where the Model S electric sedan will be built.

Production at the Nummi plant, established in 1984 as a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, halted last month after GM said it could not sustain the factory.

The Model S is slated to sell for $49,900, including federal tax credits, and is designed to travel as far as 300 miles on a three- to five-hour charge.

-- Associated Press


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