In the first quarter of 2009, the banking industry rebounded from a net loss in the prior quarter-an improvement that masked mixed performance. The first quarter cumulative net profit of $7.6 billion, the highpoint of the previous four quarters, was more than 60 percent below 2008's first quarter performance. Further, this year's profitability was largely fueled by strong trading revenues and realized gains on securities at large banks. Nearly one-quarter (21.6 percent) of banks reported a net loss, and a majority of banks reported quarter-over-quarter net income declines.
A $7.6 billion increase in trading revenues boosted noninterest income, with additional contribution coming from increased servicing fees and gains on loan sales. The industry also benefited from an improved net interest margin (NIM), driven primarily by a lower cost of funds. The average NIM of 3.39 percent was slightly higher on a sequential and quarter-over-quarter basis.
Bad loans still a factor
First quarter charge-offs notched a slight sequential decline, but are still outpacing last year's level by almost 100 percent.
C&I loans accounted for most of the year-over-year increase in charge-offs, but credit cards, real estate construction loans and closed end 1-4 family residential real estate loans were also problematic. Net charge-offs in all major categories were higher than a year ago. The total annualized charge-off rate was 1 basis point below the fourth quarter's record-high level.
Noncurrent loans are still on the rise. The percentage of noncurrent loans and leases to total loans and leases rose 81 basis points during the first quarter to 3.76 percent, with the increase being led by real estate loans. Nearly three-fifths (58 percent) of banks indicated that their noncurrent loan balances increased during the first quarter.
Banks added to their reserves again this quarter, pushing the ratio of reserves to total loans up to the record level of 2.5 percent. This reserve building was outpaced by the rise in noncurrent loans, however, such that the ratio of reserves to noncurrent loans declined to 66.5 percent, a 17-year low.
Balance sheets shift
The industry's equity capital rose substantially, partially driven by reduced dividend payments and TARP infusions. The paring down of loan portfolios and trading accounts led to an industry-wide decline in total assets of $302 billion. As a result, the ratio of total deposits to industry assets rose to 66.1 percent, despite a slight decline in total deposits.
Failure rate high, DIF decreasing
At quarter-end, there were 8,246 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions, down from 8,305 at year-end. Twenty-one banks failed in the first quarter. The problem list grew in number from 252 to 305, while the assets managed by problem banks increased 38 percent to $220 billion.
Loss provisions (for actual and anticipated failures) drove a 24.7 percent in the DIF during the quarter, bringing the balance to about $13 billion. The 21 failures during the first quarter are estimated to have cost the DIF $2.2 billion. At quarter-end, the reserve ratio was 0.27 percent, its lowest level in 16 years.
New charters approved during the first quarter of 2009 numbered 13, the lowest level since the first quarter of 1994. There were 50 bank mergers during the quarter.