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posted: 2/6/2010 12:01 AM

Regulators shut small Minnesota bank, 16th in 2010

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WASHINGTON -- Regulators have shut down a small bank in Minnesota, bringing to 16 the number of bank failures in the U.S. so far in 2010 following the 140 brought down last year by rising loan defaults and the recession.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday took over 1st American State Bank of Minnesota, located in Hancock, Minn., with about $18.2 million in assets and $16.3 million in deposits. Community Development Bank, based in Ogema, Minn., agreed to assume the assets and deposits of the failed bank.

The two branches of 1st American State Bank will reopen on Monday as branches of Community Development Bank.

In addition, the FDIC and Community Development Bank agreed to share losses on $11.7 million of 1st American State Bank's loans and other assets.

The government's resolution of 1st American State Bank is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund $3.1 million.

As the economy has soured, with unemployment rising, home prices tumbling and loan defaults soaring, bank failures have accelerated and sapped billions out of the federal deposit insurance fund. It fell into the red last year.

The 140 bank failures last year were the highest annual tally since 1992, at the height of the savings and loan crisis. They cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion. There were 25 bank failures in 2008 and just three in 2007.

The number of bank failures is expected to rise further this year. The FDIC expects the cost of resolving failed banks to grow to about $100 billion over the next four years.

The agency last year mandated banks to prepay about $45 billion in premiums, for 2010 through 2012, to replenish the insurance fund.

Depositors' money -- insured up to $250,000 per account -- is not at risk, with the FDIC backed by the government. Besides the fund, the FDIC has about $21 billion in cash available in reserve to cover losses at failed banks.

Banks have been especially hurt by failed real estate loans, both residential and commercial. Banks that had lent to seemingly solid businesses are suffering losses as buildings sit vacant. As development projects collapse, builders are defaulting on their loans.

If the economic recovery falters, defaults on the high-risk loans could spike. Many regional banks hold large concentrations of these loans. Nearly $500 billion in commercial real estate loans are expected to come due annually over the next few years.

This week, President Barack Obama promoted a $30 billion plan to provide money to community banks if they boost lending to small businesses. The program, which must be approved by Congress, would use money repaid by banks to the $700 billion federal bailout fund.

Hundreds of banks, including major Wall Street institutions, received taxpayer support through that politically unpopular rescue program, enacted by Congress in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

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