I’m not good at taking vacations….
FDIC published its quarterly banking profile today. Here are the latest banking industry statistics at a glance. A few interesting takeaways I’d like to highlight. First, the problem bank list grew again. And it still understates total problem assets…both Citi and Bank of American should also be on this list.
The number of institutions on the FDIC’s “Problem List” rose to its highest level in 16 years. At the end of September, there were 552 insured institutions on the “Problem List,” up from 416 on June 30. This is the largest number of “problem” institutions since December 31, 1993, when there were 575 institutions on the list. Total assets of “problem” institutions increased during the quarter from $299.8 billion to $345.9 billion, the highest level since the end of 1993, when they totaled $346.2 billion. Fifty institutions failed during the third quarter, bringing the total number of failures in the first nine months of 2009 to 95.
Also, what will get lots of headlines today is that the Deposit Insurance Fund went negative as of September 30th. We already knew this to be true, and it’s not totally fair to report the negative balance without noting that FDIC does have cash. That said, the DIF is still in a very precarious position.
As projected in September, the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) balance – or the net worth of the fund – fell below zero for the first time since the third quarter of 1992. The fund balance of negative $8.2 billion as of September already reflects a $38.9 billion contingent loss reserve that has been set aside to cover estimated losses over the next year. Just as banks reserve for loan losses, the FDIC has to set aside reserves for anticipated closings over the next year. Combining the fund balance with this contingent loss reserve shows total DIF reserves with a positive balance of $30.7 billion.
Chairman Bair distinguished the DIF’s reserves from the FDIC’s cash resources, which stood at $23.3 billion of cash and marketable securities. To further bolster the DIF’s cash position, the FDIC Board approved a measure on November 12th to require insured institutions to prepay three years worth of deposit insurance premiums – about $45 billion – at the end of 2009. “This measure will provide the FDIC with the funds needed to carry on with the task of resolving failed institutions in 2010, but without accelerating the impact of assessments on the industry’s earnings and capital,” Chairman Bair said.
The DIF will continue to be negative after FDIC gets the additional $45 billion at the end of this year. That’s not a “special assessment,” it’s the next three years’ regular assessments being collected up front. The distinction is crucial. Because it’s a regular assessment, FDIC won’t count it as new reserves for the DIF. Instead it will be counted as deferred revenue on the DIF’s balance sheet.
Why is that important? Because unlike the $5.6 billion special assessment in Q2, banks don’t have to take a hit against their capital all at once for this assessment. They get to treat it as a prepaid expense.