2010 worst year for bank failures since 1992
Tuesday, December 28, 2010; 11:33 PM
More banks failed in the United States this year than in any year since 1992, during the savings-and-loan crisis, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Amid high unemployment, a struggling economy and a still-devastated real estate market, the nation is closing out the year with 157 bank failures, up from 140 in 2009. As recently as 2006, before the bubble burst, there were none.
Now, there are more on the horizon.
The FDIC's list of "problem" banks - those whose weaknesses "threaten their continued financial viability"- stood at 860 as of Sept. 30, the highest since 1993. Historically, about a fifth of banks on the watch list end up failing.
Bank failures have left the FDIC insurance fund in the red, but the agency predicts that it will have more than enough money to meet the anticipated cost of failures through 2014.
As the financial crisis of recent years recedes, the FDIC has been predicting that 2010 will be the high-water mark for bank implosions.
"Going forward, the FDIC looks to see fewer failures," agency spokesman Greg Hernandez said.
Some industry observers agreed.
"I think we're over the hump of the problem but far from the end," banking consultant Bert Ely said.
Gary B. Townsend, president of Hill-Townsend Capital, said the industry is not just out of the woods, "we are far beyond the woods."
By one measure, the trouble is already abating. On average, the banks that failed this year were much smaller than those that failed last year.
The banks that failed this year had assets totaling $92.1 billion, a decrease of 45.7 percent from the $169.7 billion in assets of the banks that failed in 2009.