U.S. bank profits rose 29% as outlook for future credit losses adjusted downward

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) logo is seen at the FDIC headquarters in Washington

(In second paragraph fixes garble to read “up $58.3 billion from a year”)

By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. bank profits rose 29.1% during the first quarter of 2021 from the previous quarter as banks adjusted expectations for future credit losses downward, a bank regulator said on Wednesday.

The industry posted $76.8 billion in first-quarter profits, up $58.3 billion from a year prior and $17.3 billion in the final quarter of 2020, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said in its quarterly banking profile report.

The report data also showed that three-quarters of all banks, or 74.8%, reported higher quarterly net income compared with the year-ago quarter and that the share of unprofitable institutions dropped from 7.4% a year ago to 3.9%.

Loan balances declined from the previous quarter and year, driven by a reduction in credit card balances, the agency added.

FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams said the new data shows, despite continued challenges, “the banking industry remains resilient. Strong capital and liquidity levels support lending needs and help protect against potential losses.”

The new data also showed deposits grew by $635.2 billion, or 3.6%, from a quarter prior to $18.5 trillion.

This lift in U.S. consumers’ savings repeats a trend of previous quarters of unprecedented deposit growth, the regulator said.

“We’ve had record savings rates since the beginning of the pandemic, but this influx of deposits is not permanent,” an agency official told reporters.

“As the economy continues to expand due to consumers and businesses starting to spend again, we will see a significant moderation in growth,” another official added, saying that the agency will continue to monitor deposit trends.

Total assets increased by $680.9 billion, or 3.1%, from the previous quarter to $22.6 trillion.

Cash and balances due from depository institutions expanded by $440.1 billion, or 13.8%, while securities rose a record $366.9 billion, or 7.2%.

Three new banks opened and 25 institutions merged in first quarter 2021. No banks failed during the quarter, the FDIC data showed.

The number of institutions on the FDIC’s so-called problem bank list declined by one to 55 from the previous quarter.

(Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)