FDIC: Bank FY Earnings Rise Despite 29% Increase in Loan Losses

According to the FDIC, insured institutions reported net income of $43.7 billion for Q4/16, an increase of $3.1 billion (7.7%) compared with the year before. Almost 60% of all banks reported year-over-year increases in quarterly earnings. Only 8.1% of banks were unprofitable for the quarter, down from 9.6% the previous year. The average return on assets (ROA) rose slightly to 1.04%, from 1.02% in fourth quarter 2015.

Full-Year 2016 Earnings Rise to $171.3 Billion

The industry reported $171.3 billion in net income for full-year 2016, $7.9 billion (4.9%) more than the industry earned in 2015. Almost two out of every three banks or 65.2% reported higher earnings in 2016 than in 2015. Only 4.2% of all banks had negative full-year net income. This is the lowest percentage of unprofitable banks for any year since 1995. Net operating revenue was $29 billion (4.2%) higher than in 2015, as net interest income increased by $29.8 billion (6.9%) and total noninterest income declined by $779 million (0.3%). The average net interest margin (NIM) rose to 3.13% from 3.07% in 2015.

Total noninterest expenses were only $5.1 billion (1.2%) higher than a year earlier, as itemized litigation charges at a few large banks were $2.95 billion lower than in 2015. Loan-loss provisions totaled $47.8 billion, an increase of $10.7 billion (28.8%) from 2015. The average return on assets for 2016 was 1.04%, unchanged from the full-year average for 2015.

Net Interest Income Growth Lifts Operating Revenues

Net operating revenue totaled $181.8 billion in the fourth quarter, up $7.9 billion (4.6%) from the year before. Net interest income was $8.4 billion (7.6%) higher, while noninterest income declined by $480 million (0.8%). The increase in net interest income was attributable to growth in interest-bearing assets (up 5.2% over the past 12 months) and improvement in the industry’s aggregate NIM, which rose to 3.16%, from 3.12% in fourth quarter 2015. The NIM improvement was not broad-based. A majority of banks or 54.3% reported lower NIMs than the year earlier. The decline in noninterest income was driven by a $950 million drop in income from changes in fair values of financial instruments and a $432 million decline in interchange fees. Both trading income and servicing income rose $1.7 billion (39.8% and 51.4%, respectively) from fourth quarter 2015.

Noninterest Expenses Up 2.6% from a Year Before

Total noninterest expenses were $2.7 billion (2.6%) higher than the year before. Salary and employee benefit expenses rose $1.7 billion (3.4%), while goodwill impairment charges were $675 million higher. Expenses for premises and fixed assets were only $9 million (0.1%) higher than the year earlier.

Quarterly Loss Provisions Decline from a Year Ago

Loan-loss provisions totaled $12.2 billion in the fourth quarter, $3 million less than banks set aside a year earlier. This marks the first time since second quarter 2014 that quarterly provision expenses have not posted a year-over-year increase. For the industry, fourth-quarter provisions represented 6.7% of the quarter’s net operating revenue, down from 7% in fourth quarter 2015.

Quarterly Charge-Offs Rise for a Fifth Consecutive Quarter

Net loan losses totaled $12.2 billion, up $1.5 billion (13.5%) from a year earlier. This is the fifth quarter in a row that net charge-offs have posted a year-over-year increase. Credit card charge-offs were $1.4 billion (24.8%) higher, while net charge-offs of loans to commercial and industrial (C&I) borrowers rose $666 million (37.9%). Charge-offs of residential mortgage loans were $576 million (75.1%) lower than in fourth quarter 2015. The average net charge-off rate rose to 0.53%, from 0.49% the year before. This is well below the high of 3.00% recorded in fourth quarter 2009.

Noncurrent Loan Rate at Lowest Level Since 2007

Noncurrent loans and leases — those 90 days or more past-due or in nonaccrual status — declined for the 26th time in the last 27 quarters, falling by $2.4 billion (1.8%) during the three months ended December 31. During the quarter, noncurrent C&I loans declined for the first time in eight quarters, falling by $1.4 billion (5.3%). Noncurrent residential mortgage loan balances fell by $2 billion (3%), while noncurrent home equity loans declined by $170 million (1.6%), and noncurrent nonfarm nonresidential real estate loans fell by $192 million (2%). These improvements exceeded the $1.1 billion (12.7%) increase in noncurrent credit card balances. The average noncurrent loan rate fell from 1.45 percent to 1.41 percent, the lowest level since year-end 2007.

Loan-Loss Reserves Decline for the First Time in Five Quarters

Banks reduced their reserves for loan and lease losses during the fourth quarter, as slightly lower loan-loss provisions were offset by higher net charge-offs. Loss reserves fell by $649 million (0.5%). At banks that itemize their reserves, which represent more than 90% of total industry reserves, the decline was driven by reductions in reserves for residential real estate loan losses, which fell by $1.2 billion (6.5%), and in reserves for commercial loan losses, which declined by $639 million (1.8%). Itemized reserves for losses on credit cards increased by $677 million (2.3%). Despite the small reduction in industry reserves, the larger decline in noncurrent loan balances caused the coverage ratio of reserves to noncurrent loans to rise from 91.1% to 92.3% in the quarter, the highest level since third quarter 2007.

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