U.S. banks posted last year their sharpest decline in lending since 1942, suggesting that the industry’s continued slide is making it harder for the economy to recover. While top-tier banks are recovering at a faster clip, the rest of the industry is still suffering, according to a quarterly report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Banks fighting for survival, especially those plagued by losses on commercial real estate, are less willing to extend loans, siphoning credit from businesses and consumers.Besides registering their biggest full-year decline in total loans outstanding in 67 years, U.S. banks set a number of grim milestones. According to the FDIC, the number of U.S. banks at risk of failing hit a 16-year high at 702. More than 5% of all loans were at least three months past due, the highest level recorded in the 26 years the data have been collected. And the problems are expected to last through 2010.
By Michael R. Crittenden and Marshall Eckblad, Feb. 24, 2010, WSJ

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WSJ 02/24/10