Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Florida Banks' Numbers Improve but Still Lag Nation

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Florida Banks' Numbers Improve but Still Lag Nation

Article excerpt

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN Florida started 2012 on the plus side, posting their best earnings in more than four years.

The state's 222 banks and thrifts earned a combined $174 million in the first quarter, compared with losses of $39 million last quarter and $3 million one year earlier, according to data released last week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Twenty-seven percent of those institutions remained unprofitable, however, compared with just 10 percent across the country.

Banks nationwide earned $35.3 billion in the first quarter, up by $6.6 billion over last year. It was the 11th consecutive quarter U.S. banks registered year-over-year increases, the FDIC said.

The FDIC's roster of troubled banks also shrank, for the fourth consecutive quarter, to 772, or 41 fewer than three months earlier. Assets of those "problem list" banks fell from $319 billion to $292 billion. That is the smallest number of problem banks since year- end 2009 -- but it still leaves nearly 11 percent of the nation's 7,309 banks at risk of failing.

A total of 24 banks have failed so far this year nationwide, compared with 44 at this point in 2011. Sixteen were closed in the first quarter, the lowest number in a quarter since 12 failed in fourth-quarter 2008.

"The condition of the industry continues to gradually improve," said FDIC acting chairman Martin J. Gruenberg. "Insured institutions have made steady progress in shedding bad loans, bolstering net worth and increasing profitability."

Florida was among the states most battered by the recession and real estate downturn, and its banking industry has struggled to recover.The state's banks and thrifts rebounded to earn a combined $178 million last year, following losses of $1.5 billion in 2010 and $2.2 billion in 2009.

Unlike past quarters, commercial banks in Florida led the way in the first three months of 2012. The state's 201 commercial banks earned $173 million, while the 21 thrifts eked out a $1 million profit. Only 24 percent of the banks were in the red, while 48 percent of the thrifts lost money. …

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