Regulators Admit To Huge Decline In Loan Credit Quality

No End In Sight To Debt Defaults

The extent of the continued severe deterioration in loan credit quality was revealed in the Shared National Credits Review, issued jointly by the Federal Reserve, FDIC, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Credit quality declined sharply

The credit risk of these large loan commitments was shared among U.S. bank organizations, foreign bank organizations (FBO), and nonbanks such as securitization pools, hedge funds, insurance companies, and pension funds. Credit quality deteriorated across all entities, but nonbanks held 47 percent of classified assets in the SNC portfolio, despite making up only 21.2 percent of the SNC portfolio. U.S. bank organizations held 30.2 percent of the classified assets and made up 40.8 percent of the SNC portfolio.

The 2009 review covered 8,955 credits totaling $2.9 trillion extended to approximately 5,900 borrowers.

Key findings were:

  • Criticized assets, which included SNCs classified as special mention, substandard, doubtful, or loss, reached $642 billion, up from $373 billion last year, and represented 22.3 percent of the SNC portfolio compared with 13.4 percent in 2008.
  • Classified assets, which included SNCs classified as substandard, doubtful, or loss, rose to $447 billion from $163 billion and represented 15.5 percent of the SNC portfolio, compared with 5.8 percent in 2008. Classified dollar volume increased 174 percent from a year ago.
  • Special mention assets, which exhibited potential weakness and could result in further deterioration if uncorrected, declined to $195 billion from $210 billion and represented 6.8 percent of the SNC portfolio, compared with 7.5 percent in 2008.
  • The severity of criticism increased with the volume of SNCs classified as doubtful and loss rising to $110 billion, up from $8 billion in 2008. Loans in nonaccrual status also increased nearly eight times to $172 billion from $22 billion. Nonaccrual loans included $32 billion in credits classified as loss and $56 billion classified doubtful.
  • The distribution of credits across U.S. bank organizations, foreign bank organizations, and nonbanks remained relatively unchanged. U.S. bank organizations held 40.8 percent, while FBOs and nonbanks held 38 percent and 21.2 percent, respectively. Nonbanks continued to hold a disproportionate share of classified assets. Nonbanks held 47 percent of classified assets and 52 percent of nonaccrual loans. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured institutions held 24.2 percent of classified assets and 22.7 percent of nonaccrual loans.
  • The review identified significant deterioration in credit quality of leveraged finance credits, with these loans representing more than 40 percent of the dollar volume of total criticized assets. About 72 percent of the dollar volume of the 50 largest leveraged finance SNCs were criticized, which represents one-third of all criticized assets.
  • Underwriting standards in 2008 improved from prior years, with examiners identifying fewer loans with structurally weak underwriting characteristics compared to credits written in 2007 and 2006. However, the SNC portfolio contained loans with structurally weak underwriting characteristics that were committed before mid-2007 that contributed significantly to the increase in criticized assets.

The SNC review is in line with the latest FDIC Quarterly Banking Profile which also showed pervasive deterioration in loan quality.  Although loan quality is a lagging indicator, it will take years to rebuild balance sheets and resolve the mountain of troubled assets in the financial system.   Expect lending to remain constrained as lending institutions struggle to rebuild capital as the economy slowly improves.  If the global economy takes another dive, expect a financial crisis that may exceed the meltdown of 2008.

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