Fed Sees Up to $599 Billion in Bank Losses


DAVID ENRICH, ROBIN SIDEL and DEBORAH SOLOMON
The Wall Street Journal
May 8, 2009

The federal government projected that 19 of the nation’s biggest banks could suffer losses of up to $599 billion through the end of next year if the economy performs worse than expected and ordered 10 of them to raise a combined $74.6 billion in capital to cushion themselves.

[efoods]The much-anticipated stress-test results unleashed a scramble by the weakest banks to find money and a push by the strongest ones to escape the government shadow of taxpayer-funded rescues.

The Federal Reserve’s worst-case estimates of banks’ total losses and capital shortfalls were smaller than some had feared. Optimists interpreted the Fed’s findings as evidence that the worst is over for the industry. But questions remain about the stress tests’ rigor, in part since the Fed scaled back some projected losses in the face of pressure from banks.

The government’s tests measured potential losses on mortgages, commercial loans, securities and other assets held by the stress-tested banks, ranging from giants Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. to regional institutions such as SunTrust Banks Inc. and Fifth Third Bancorp. The government’s “more adverse” scenario includes two-year cumulative losses of 9.1% on total loans, worse than the peak losses of the 1930s.

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