The Banking Crisis Cometh

The bank failure scene in the U.S. turned a shade uglier over the weekend. By this time tomorrow, it’ll probably be even worse.

For starters, Guaranty Financial of Texas went belly up late Friday and secured a spot in the history books. With $13 billion in “assets,” the bank is the third largest to fail this year and tied for the 11th biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

Even more interestingly, the FDIC brokered Guaranty’s assets to Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, a bank from northern Spain. We’re surprised on two fronts here: 1) That a bank from Spain — strapped with double-digit unemployment and a wretched housing bust — wants to bring their euros to I.O.U.S.A. 2) That BBVA already has a huge presence in Texas. With this acquisition, they will be the fourth largest banking chain in the Lone Star State. That could be an interesting trend to watch.

Three other banks failed along side Guaranty: CaptialSouth, First Coweta and ebank. That brings the yearly total to 81.

This should put the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund on its last legs. At the beginning of 2008, the FDIC’s bank failure war chest had over $52 billion. At the end of the March 2009, the last time the FDIC has given us a look into the DIF, they had $13 billion left. 60 banks have failed since, including Guaranty and Colonial, which by themselves took out half of that remaining $13 billion. Only the FDIC can say with accuracy if there is any money left, but this chart gives you a pretty good idea of how the trend is shaping up:


The DIF does have a source of income — it taxes member banks a significant “insurance fee.” But we have to think that the DIF is still in bad shape, perhaps even empty… and that the FDIC will soon be hitting up someone (Tim Geithner, Joe Taxpayer and/or U.S. banks) to refill their coffer.

The FDIC will provide their second-quarter report tomorrow, which among other things will include a look into the DIF and their infamous bank “problem list”… could get ugly. We’ll keep you up to speed.

“Recent bank failures remind us of the problem loans festering on small and regional bank balance sheets,” writes Dan Amoss, “and that many of them are marking loans at fantasy levels. The secondary market value for some of the worst loans, like construction loans, is 20 or 30 cents on the dollar.

“There’s a backlog of at least a few hundred insolvent banks that need to be shut down and sold into stronger hands. Bank stock bulls are ignoring the credit losses yet to be recognized, so there are lots of shorting opportunities in the sector. Many banks will not be able to “earn their way out” of their credit losses.

“The problem is, there aren’t many strong buyers with lots of capital out there. Those that are, like private equity groups, are buying only after the FDIC agrees to eat most of the credit losses, and the buyer is gifted with the remaining shell — the profit-making engine of spread lending.

“It’s understandable that the FDIC doesn’t want much publicity about the Deposit Insurance Fund; it wants to maintain the public’s confidence that it can ‘insure’ all deposits with just a few basis points of capital reserves and skimpy premium income. The fund is clearly not adequate to cover the bank failures still in the pipeline, so we’ll see another ‘special assessment’ imposed on all other banks, which will ultimately be passed on to depositors via lower interest rates.”

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