Monday, July 19, 2010

Bank Failures Driving FDIC to Insolvency

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

In December of 2009, the FDIC ordered U.S. banks to make three years of prepayments to its deposit  insurance fund. It looks like the FDIC has already blown through the $15.33 billion it collected at the end of last year and will soon be needing its own bailout.

As of July 16th, 96 U.S. banks have failed. The total was 86 at the end of the first six months of the year. A simple doubling of the number would indicate that there will be 172 failures this year. Estimates though are for around 200. More failures took place in the second half of the year in 2009. Total failures for 2009 were 140 compared to only 25 in 2008 and 3 in 2007. There is no question that the number of failures will be greater once again in 2010.

The FDIC maintains a troubled bank list and there are 775 banks on that list as of the end of the first quarter. That was up from 702 in the fourth quarter of 2009. Since failed banks are removed from the list, this indicates that more banks are getting into trouble than the number failing. As long as this continues to happen, the U.S. banking system is deteriorating further. Commercial loans going sour are now being added to the problem of too many bad residential real estate loans.

Investors should not be fooled by comparisons of current U.S. bank failures with the number of failures in the past. In the early 1900s, there were a very large number of small banks in the country. Over the last 80 years, U.S. banks have become much larger and far fewer in number so only a percentage comparison makes any sense. During the Great Depression, 9146 banks failed. That would represent over 100% of the 7932 banks that now exist. Even during the Savings and Loan Crisis there were more than twice as many banks in business than there are now. The total number of failures for the Depression and Savings and Loan Crisis are also for a period of up to 15 years. So we will have to wait until 2023 to see if banking failures are or aren't as bad now as they were during past crises.

We are not likely to have to wait very long however to see if the FDIC needs a government bailout for the first time. The FDIC states very clearly on its website that its operations are funded through member banks and it doesn't require taxpayer money. Well accepting a "loan" from the federal government or whatever they will call the bailout is taking help from the taxpayer. For a long time, I have been predicting that this event will be taking place in the fall of 2010. As of now, it looks like the FDIC may have trouble holding off insolvency even until then.

Disclosure: No positions.

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

No comments: