Oil Patch Troubles Push Bank Failures to Post-Depression High

Article excerpt

of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana pushed closings nationwide to a post-Depression record in 1987 and a top federal regulator said Tuesday he expects at best only a small improvement this year.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported 184 bank closings among the 14,000 commercial banks it inured last year. More than half - 95 - came in three states plagued by the moribund oil market. Fifty banks closed their doors in Texas, 31 in Oklahoma and 14 in Louisiana.

An additional 19 banks required assistance from the insurance fund to stay afloat. Fifteen of those were in the three oil states.

``Our current hope would be that next year would be a little better in terms of bank failures,'' FDIC Chairman L. William Seidman said. ``If it is, it'll be by a small margin. Much will depend on what happens in the energy-producing states.''

Early last fall, Seidman said he expected bank failures to decline to about 150 in 1988, but he said Tuesday in an interview following an FDIC board meeting that the recent drop in oil prices has helped to dampen his previous optimism.

Oil prices plunged early in 1986 from more than $30 a barrel to the $15 range. They recovered to more than $20 a barrel, but fell again late last year after feuding OPEC nations failed to reach an agreement that would have supported prices.

Seidman said banks so far have suffered no great harm from the Oct. 19 stock market crash, but added, ``It does create uncertainty.''

``In those areas already having economic problems, (any slowdown caused by crash) could make it worse,'' he said.

Seidman called 1987 ``one of the most difficult and unusual years in banking since this corporation has been in business. …