New York Times

Failures of Small Banks Grow, Straining F.D.I.C.
The New York Times

A year after Washington rescued the banks considered too big to fail, the ones deemed too small to save are approaching a grim milestone: the 100th bank failure of 2009.

In what has become a ritual, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has swooped down on a handful of troubled lenders almost every Friday, seizing 98 since January alone and putting their assets into the hands of another bank.

Burdened by worsening commercial real estate loans, many small banks’ troubles are just beginning. Many analysts say that the now-toxic loans could sink hundreds of small lenders over the next few years and place a significant drag on the economy.

Already, the bank failures are placing enormous strain on the F.D.I.C. and its fund, which keeps depositors whole. Flush with more than $50 billion only two years ago, the fund recently fell into the red.

While the parade of failures still represents a mere fraction of America’s small banks, it underscores a growing divide between them and large institutions like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Bancorp, which are slowly growing stronger as the economy improves.