Monday, January 26, 2009

Lending at Top Banks Drops Despite Federal Cash

The Wall Street Journal - Lending at many of the nation's largest banks fell in recent months, even after they received $148 billion in taxpayer capital that was intended to help the economy by making loans more readily available.

Ten of the 13 big beneficiaries of the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, saw their outstanding loan balances decline by a total of about $46 billion, or 1.4%, between the third and fourth quarters of 2008, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of banks that recently announced their quarterly results.

Those 13 banks have collected the lion's share of the roughly $200 billion the government has doled out since TARP was launched last October to stabilize financial institutions. Banks reporting declines in outstanding loans range from giants Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., each of which got $45 billion from the government; to smaller, regional institutions. Just three of the banks reported growth in their loan portfolios: U.S. Bancorp, SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T Corp.

The loan figures analyzed by the Journal exclude some big TARP recipients that haven't reported fourth-quarter results yet, such as Wells Fargo & Co.

The overall decline in loans on the 13 banks' books -- from about $3.36 trillion as of Sept. 30 to $3.31 trillion at year's end -- raises fresh questions about TARP's effectiveness at coaxing banks to reopen their lending spigots.

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